Between a rock and a hard place

We sidestep presidential politics for the time being and move back to state and local politics. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) came down with a major decision this week that could potentially impact your children one way or another. They have given districts permission to compel virtual students that are failing to come back to school.

I will simply say that if your kid is one of those failing at home it it time to get off your duff and do some parenting. Of course, I’m guessing most of you are not in that boat. So, what this means is that your son or daughter’s classes will have a few more kids in them.

As an educator, this is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, we have had a huge issue with students doing the yo-yo bit. They come sometimes and then they stop coming. When we contact parents they tell us they have tried nothing and are all out of ideas. They don’t know how to compel the students to do the work.

So, getting them here at school is a net positive in terms of academic performance. It is easier to stand over Johnny to force him to do the work when you can physically stand over him. When it is at the business end of a Zoom call or Google Meets call it just isn’t as effective. Obviously, compelling them to be here also cuts down on the yo-yoing back and forth.

Statewide education experts will tell you that failure rates have exploded this year. Yet, they won’t tell you why. The reason is that there are multiple reasons why and we have a sizeable population in brick and mortar students that are also failing. So, getting these students back in the physical classroom will help some, but it won’t be the panacea that people think it will be.

The downside (or other half of the sword) is that the more students in the room the more likely we will have outbreaks of the virus. Positives are already up nationwide. Daily deaths have cleared the 1000 mark and estimates are that it will approach 2000 before the end of the calendar year. So, academic performance may go up, but safety will take a hit.

This is the push and pull of a pandemic. We know that students need emotional attachment. We know they need interpersonal interaction. One of the reasons they are not doing as well is that things are not back to normal. Some of the activities (say Homecoming, games, pep rallies, club meetings, field trips) that kept students engaged are not there. Teachers are having a more difficult time working in small groups with students, circulating the room, or giving the younger ones the occasional hug or high five. That could explain the failure rate.

So, the choice is to try to reinstall as much as that as possible or continue to play it safe and close to the vest. As someone that aims to connect with students at least on a personal level, I see the challenges on both sides of this debate. I have comorbidities, so getting sick is not really a good option. Yet, I’m not as effective as I used to be.

So, this is where national leadership comes in. National leadership turns into state leadership which then turns into local leadership. Notice that the TEA didn’t say those students had to come back. They said districts had the right to compel them to come back. In other words, they are leaving it up to the local districts to be the bad guy. It’s shucking responsibility at its very finest. That kind of message and execution comes from the very top.

Our particular campus performs better academically than most because of the unique nature of our campus. I’m guessing such an order would maybe increase class loads by one or two students per class period. That’s not a huge deal. Other campuses might see more than that. A standard elementary school class might see an additional three or four students.

That can have a dramatic impact on social distancing protocols in the classroom. Those additional students will impact how traffic flows in the hallways and how students are seated at lunch. What happens if one of them gets sick? What happens if one of them makes one of us sick? Moreover, what happens if a parent steadfastly refuses to cooperate? These are all tough decisions and it seems like the modus operandi is to pass that decision down to the lowest rung on the totem pole.

The Vanity Project

The final tallies are not yet in. Yet, all the networks called this election on Saturday morning. The Associated Press has not called Georgia or North Carolina, but it doesn’t matter. The very worst Joe Biden can do is come away with 290 electoral votes.

The current count has him over 76 million votes. He has nearly five million more than Trump. The point differential is at 3.3 percent. That was a little less than what I projected in my pre-election post, but we aren’t done counting yet. It probably will end closer to six million and four percent.

Yet, the president rages on. He refuses to concede even though all of the networks have called it. Most of the states have called it. Heads of state are already congratulating Joe Biden and he has already given his acceptance speech. All this happened Saturday. It’s Tuesday morning and we are still hearing about fraud, legitimate votes and illegitimate votes, and legal briefs written in crayon.

We’ve come to expect this from the president. He’s the little kid from down the street that changed the rules, called do overs, and literally took his ball and went home. All of this because he can’t accept failure. All of the bankruptcies should have gotten him used to it, but those made him a smart businessman. Or, they weren’t his fault. Or, they didn’t happen. If they did happen then he meant for it to happen. As Eric Cartman always said, “screw you guys, I’m going home.”

My capacity to feel sad for that man is long gone. I will never actively root for anything bad to happen to someone. Yet, you rapidly get to the point where you just don’t care anymore. Watching the equivalent of a temper tantrum from a 74 year old man is unbecoming and pathetic.

What’s more pathetic is watching what is going on around him. Rudy Giuliani used to have some cache. I suppose people that knew him might say otherwise, but we thought he had some dignity. Watching him flail around in front of a landscaping company was either the height of performance art or the window into the inside of a man that has no soul.

Bill Barr is weaponizing the Department of Justice to find instances of voter fraud. No one could list any. They just know it’s there. If he had any credibility it might be concerning, but he has blown his wad acting like the president’s lawyer.

You have conservative commentators and statewide politicians refusing to acknowledge the obvious. When they came to the intersection of the road and saw dignity to the right and sycophantism to the left they dove faster to the left than Brooks Robinson stopping a would be single. Before it made perfect sense. He was the president. I understand unchecked ambition getting in the way of basic human dignity.

Of course, that phrase is the operative one now. He was the president. I suppose he still is in title and a matter of constitutional law. Once December hits the Biden victory will be official. Once January hits it will all be over. So, what does it profit anyone to kiss up to this man? What do you get out of it now?

That’s the truly pathetic part of all of this. People are so willing to debase themselves and their reputations for the fury of a man that has already lost. He can’t concede now. He’s waited too long. Everyone around him is trying to find what they call an off ramp. They want to find a way for him to graciously surrender and look good doing it. Unfortunately, that train has already left the station. It left the station even before the election was called.

What you should know is that Biden has already gotten to work. He’s already put a task force together on the virus and they will hit the ground running in January. He doesn’t need to meet with the brat for transition. The brat doesn’t know anything. He never did. He just knows that when you’re losing you change the rules of the game. You can’t change these rules. The game is over. It’s time to take your ball and go home.

Should I stay or should I go?

Sometimes when I consider these dilemmas a song pops into my head. I’ve heard that people die because they have the same song in their head on constant repeat. I suppose there is no way to prove such a theory. We will leave The Clash behind and move onto the subject for the day.

In my first draft of Sunday’s post I mentioned Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (AOC) in passing. She has been taking on the Democratic party and the Biden coalition on Twitter. She went after former Republican governor of Ohio John Kasich because he failed to deliver Ohio for Biden. I’m not sure that was the selling point of him endorsing Biden, but we will leave that where it is at for the time being.

The implication is obvious. The Democrats lost seats in the House and will need to sweep the runoff elections in Georgia to take the Senate. Obviously, appealing to moderate Republicans wasn’t a winning formula for many running for Congress. It was a winning formula for the White House and I’m sure that is what matters to the Biden campaign and those that supported him on the right.

This brings home the point that the question on everyone’s mind is how to best fix what’s broken. We can extend that question beyond politics. I find it interesting that my wife and I typically have different answers to this question on multiple fronts. AOC in her way is arguing for the Democratic party to evolve into a more progressive party. She is probably right on this front. Progressive candidates consistently did well in House elections and the more moderate ones did not.

Being on the inside allows you the opportunity to use your voice to change the group. I’m not a card carrying Democrat but I might as well be. I vote Democratic and I have attended local Democratic events. Being involved means I can use my involvement to help move the party in a direction I think it should go. I can’t do it alone obviously, but if enough of us agree we can get it done.

The downside is that being inside has caused mountains of heartache and also the kinds of issues we saw on the GOP side. It becomes an us versus them world. We run the risk of blindly supporting someone on our team because they are on our team. It’s like cheering on the serial rapist on your sports team because it is your team. If he were on the other team you would boo him unmercifully.

So, remaining independent has its advantages as well. It means you always get to make your decisions based on the people involved and not on party orthodoxy. Unfortunately, you have zero say into the people that those parties throw into the general election. As the creators of South Park said, you could end up choosing between a turd sandwich and giant douche.

The same choices extend beyond politics and into our daily lives. We can choose to be more involved at work where we can help shape the culture and systems in place. We can choose to be more involved with our extended families and help bridge the divides we have seen crop up over the last four years. We can remain involved in our churches and other social organizations and get more involved in how those churches and social organizations manifest their message and carry out their mission.

Or, we can scrap all of that. We can leave it all behind and start over. We get to choose who we spend time with. We get to choose how engaged we will be at work. We get to choose whether we want to find a church community or social group that matches our values and meets our needs. Of course, if none do then we can choose not to do any of those things.

What we know is that our families, friendships, work places, and other social organizations/churches have been poisoned by division, hatred, and intolerance. Not all of them have mind you. We have like-minded friends and family. We have open and inclusive places of work. We have churches that still hold to the missions we fell in love with. Undoubtedly though, each of us has someone or something in mind when I talk about something that has been poisoned.

Do you work to save it or do you cut it out and start over? If you find yourself frustrated with a political party, family member, church, or work family do you try to make it better from the inside or do you leave it to look for something that matches your values? These are hard decisions and I don’t have the answer for you. Each of you will have to answer this for yourself. I wish everyone the best of luck in their journey and know I will always be here thinking about all of you.

It’s Morning in America

I have to give credit to some friends and to some of the other articles I have been reading on the subject. More than two said this, but I’ll give a shout out to two. One is a journalist that has a Youtube channel known as “Beau of the fifth column.” The other is a high school friend of mine named Ryan Goins. They both put it in a way that I knew in my heart, but in words I could digest.

I didn’t know I would feel this way on the run up to the election. There are equal parts joy, exhaustion, and still a deep pain. The first two make perfect sense and they are emotions people normally feel after their candidate has won an election. Our election process is way too long and it gets longer and longer every four years. The pain is new and that came from the knowledge that 71 million people placed their vote for Trump and Trumpism.

As Beau, Ryan, and others pointed out, the divide between the two candidates wasn’t about politics. It wasn’t about ideology. It was about morality. That’s why the pain is still there and that is what keeps me from out and out celebration. I know that probably seems puzzling, so I will have to provide an explanation.

It’s hard to celebrate when that many people are willing to abandon morality and decency to vote for a candidate. I know that statement is going to get me into some hot water with friends and family. I honestly don’t care. I’ve read the stuff on social media even after the fact from some of them. It has taken every fiber of my being not to rain down on them the fires of holy hell. They treated a vote for Biden as if it was the heighth of moral bankruptcy.

One in particular bought into the Trump calls of fraud and connected it to the Jesus resurrection story in probably the most sickening metaphor I have ever experienced. The idea was that even the devil thought he had won three days before he lost. So, for those that haven’t been in an English class in awhile, Joe Biden somehow equals the devil. Trump somehow equaled Jesus and/or God. Excuse me while I puke.

This has been the main thing I have never quite understood over the last five years. I can understand not voting for Joe Biden. I can understand fears of a progressive platform. I can understand a conception of morality that pits one firmly against a progressive platform. I don’t agree with that, but I understand it and if the election had simply been about a traditional conservative platform against a progressive platform I would be feeling normal. There is nothing normal about Donald Trump.

There is nothing moral about Donald Trump. Absolutely nothing. People that consider themselves to be Evangelical Christians have not only reluctantly, but have wholeheartedly thrown themselves behind someone that isn’t Christian, isn’t moral, is overwhelmingly narcissistic, and has done so many things and said so many things that run completely counter to what Jesus taught. Maybe you could argue they did this to get right wing judges. Maybe you could argue they did this because they are that committed to combatting progressive ideology. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul? What if the whole world were reduced to three Supreme Court justices, justices in the lower courts, and the tears of fears of progressives? Was it worth it then?

This is where I mentally divide conservatives into three groups. The first group opposed Trump from the beginning. They recognized what he was and decided that following him wasn’t worth what he could bring to them in terms of policy and in the judiciary. They have my admiration. I’d like to think I would do that if the shoe were on the other foot. Of course, none of knows for sure until we are in that situation.

The second group may not have liked him personally or liked many of the things he said and did, but they could not stomach a Clinton presidency or a court that went against their core values. They couldn’t stomach a Biden presidency or they firmly believed it would really be a Harris presidency. I understand this on a certain level. We can fundamentally disagree on those fine points, but at least a Trump vote on their part wasn’t an enthusiastic endorsement.

The third group is the group that is difficult to reconcile. They are the folks that were firmly in his corner. They heard the racism, sexism, and xenophobia. They heard the insults and the not so subtle calls for violence. They watched him cozy up to Russia, North Korea, and other dictators. They watched the absolute cruelty. They watched the complete lack of empathy. They watched all of it and cheered. They watched all of it and identified with all of it. They watched all of it and found their spirit animal.

The first group will go back to being conservative with the new administration. It will be somewhat tough to see a temporary ally turn back into an adversary, but at least we both hate the same things. The second group will also return to the same kind of relationship. Most of those people I have polite conversations with and we will see eye to eye on some things and we will oppose each other on other things. The third group I don’t know if we will ever talk politics ever again. It will be hard to associate with them at all. Most of them will think I’ve shunned them over politics. Maybe someday they will realize that it was never about politics. It’s about morality itself.

Priority One

The time for wallowing is over. It is now time to get into the business of moving on and beginning to fix what has been broken. Some of these things are things a Biden administration can do on their own. They can get back into the Paris Climate Accord. They can get back into the nuclear agreement that they made with Iran.

Biden can also erase many of the executive orders that Trump made over the course of four years. That is the beauty of the executive order. Unfortunately, I don’t see any major partisan legislation passing. The gap in the House has dwindled some and the Senate will probably be pretty close to a 50/50 split. So, anything done will have to be bipartisan.

Realistically, that means getting one or two senators to flip just to be safe. For me, there is one priority for the new Congress to pass. It is what we might call comprehensive election reform. It involves multiple steps, so bare with me as I go through the various steps.

One Person, One Vote

Let’s consider all of the shenanigans of the past week. We are worried about counting ballots in this county or that county in this state and that state. When we went to bed on Tuesday night, one candidate had more votes than the other. It was fairly close relatively, but the difference was more than one million votes. It’s the same one that is projected to win these close states.

I get the concern over how someone could go from up one million to up by more than four million. Naturally, the conspiracy theorists among us will say whatever they want. Yet, it makes perfect sense. You tell people that mail in voting is a fraud and ask your people to vote in person. They voted in person. So, when you count the mail in votes whose name do you think is going to be on them?

Yet, this is all smoke filled coffee house crap. The will of the people has spoken. The will of the people in 2016 spoke. The will of the people in 2000 spoke. We can argue until we are blue in the face about whether California should mean more than Wyoming. The reality is simple. My note should not count any less than anyone else’s vote. It shouldn’t matter whether I’m in Boise, Idaho or Chicago, Illinois.

There are two ways to fix this. The easiest way in terms of solutions is to abolish the electoral college. Unfortunately, it’s not an easy political solution. There is also something called the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. It binds those states that agree to vote for the winner of the popular vote once their total electoral votes get to 270. About a third of the states have already signed on including California, Oregon, Washington state, Colorado, New Mexico, Illonois, New York, Maryland, New Jersey, Massachusets, Deleware, and Rhode Island. Several other states are considering it. The current count sits at 193 electoral votes. States like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and South Carolina are considering it as well. If all of those states approve we are almost home.

Let the computers do their work

The elections at the state level are crucial every ten years. Most people don’t know that. The census changes the representative count and then the legislatures get to draw the congressional districts. Whichever party controls the state controls the drawing of the districts. Most states are controlled by Republicans. They have drawn the lines and they draw them to favor their candidates.

I’m not going to get into the effects of this because Democrats do the same thing in states they control. At least, I won’t get into the electoral effects. The effects on our democracy are clear. Current experts assert that less and 200 of the 435 seats are what they would label as competitive. They define competitive as within a ten point margin.

Those same experts assert that you could draw those districts by computer and get more than 300 of those seats to be competitive. That means an independent commission would do it and it wouldn’t rely on Democrats or Republicans. This is something everyone should want. While it might temporarily wrest control away from one party or another by negating their statewide advantage, it would even out over the long haul.

More importantly, if I know that I will be in a competitive race then I have to campaign to my whole district. That means my ideas have to appeal to more people. I have to be reasonable to win. If I have to be reasonable to win then I also have to govern reasonably. I think you see where this is going. One of the many reasons why Congress doesn’t function is that we don’t elect people that want to function. They don’t have to. Their districts don’t force them to.

Unified Election Rules

One of the many sources of confusion this week is how one state can count ballots one way and another can do it completely differently. One state accepts mail in ballots as long as they are postmarked by election day. Others take in ballots that have arrived by election day. Some of them count those ballots beforehand. Others wait unti election day.

These are all legal processes, but the confusion has allowed one candidate to claim fraud and low information voters buy into that. Streamlining the process might seem self-serving to simply Trump proof this thing, but it also makes things simpler for potential voters. You tell voters their mail in ballots have to be mailed in by a specific date. It’s the same date nationwide. You have the same options for dropping off the ballot everywhere. You have the same criteria for who is eligible to vote via mail. Those votes start to be counted at the same time.

Additionally, early voting rules would be the same everywhere. The polls open on the same day and at the same time. They close on the same day and at the same time. They require the same forms of identification to vote. The registration process is the same in all 50 states. If there is a federal election then all 50 states are following the same rules. I think the complaints over IDs, registration, and absentee balloting would stop if we all agreed to the same rules well beforehand and allowed both parties to mobilize their forces around that. There would be no last minute whoopsy changes. There would be no legal sheninanigans designed to suppress the vote. You follow the common rules and vote or you don’t follow them and you don’t vote.

Publicly Fund General Elections

One of the envies of other nations is how they limit the electoral process. Many of them start only a few months before the general election. We aren’t inudated with electoral politics for two years. Some of that is unavoidable. It will be completely impossible to get money out of politics. Citizens United helped out a ton in that regard. You can bypass Citizens United with congressional action.

Publicly funding the general election would be a compromise solution. You could spend a billion dollars to win your party’s nomination. With the way parties are set up, it is next to impossible for Congress to control their process of nomination. Let them worry about that. Once you’ve nominated your candidate for a particular position you are done.

One of the reasons why people favor term limits is because they hate the idea of people being in Congress for 30, 40, or 47 years. This happens because incumbents have a built in fundraising advantage. If I’m a donor I’m going to donate to the person that is going to do the most for me. That’s someone that’s already in government. If both Republicans and Democrats get the same amount of money to campaign then I win based on my ideas and how intelligently I spend that money. We have term limits in this country. It is called the ballot box.

A Crisis of Faith

Some people that read this look to me for commentary on the issues or suggestions on how to handle certain issues. Goodness knows I am full of both. I’m just not in the mood. I see my readership stats like anyone else that runs their own WordPress blog. There aren’t that many of you. I write these primarily for me and if anyone enjoys them along the way so much the better.

The past four years have been demoralizing for any number of reasons. I certainly have ideas of how we can fix some of that, but there will be plenty of time for that later. I figured it was high time that we discussed the toll that these four years have taken.

Anyone that is a student of history knows that some pretty awful people with pretty awful ideas have come down the pike. I suppose when you consider it that way, the ideas put forth by the current administration don’t seem so bad. After all, we have seen genocide, homicidal dictators, and true unadulterated fascism. So, maybe locking a few kids in cages and blustering your way through pandemic response pales in comparison.

Maybe it’s all hyperbole at the end of the day. Yet, one cannot help but think that many of these movements began innocently enough. Few dare to come out and assert the awful things they plan on doing. It’s like the old adage about the frog in water. Throw it in boiling water and it will jump out immediately. Throw in luke warm water and slowly heat it up and you can cook the frog.

The crisis is not the ideas of one man or a group of men. Stephen Millers have existed forever. Steve Bannons have existed forever. What becomes painful is watching some of the people you love begin to espouse the same ideas. Friends, family, and coworkers have become radicalized before our very eyes. For some of us, it includes some of those we worship with as well.

This is where the crisis of faith comes in. I have spent a lifetime going to mass, volunteering with youth groups, and studying the Bible and theology. I’ve never seen things like this. I’ve never seen a group of people that I respected completely lose their way like this. It’s disheartening watching people abandon the things they hold dear all to follow a man that has never read their Bible, asked for forgiveness, or lived by the tenets of their faith.

The crisis comes in how we respond. One option is to find our own bunker to hide in until things blow over. We should retreat from our church. Retreat from our family. Retreat from our friends. We should keep our heads down and just go about our daily business without bringing it up. Arguing about politics just raises the blood pressure anyway.

Another option is to engage. We can do the tireless work of trying to convince those we love that they are going down the wrong path. They have put their faith in someone that isn’t going to give them what they think they want. We need to remind them about what their core values were. We need to remind them of how this new evil isn’t who they really are. They are better than this. We are collectively better than this.

The third option is some kind of combination of the two. We stay connected, but don’t really challenge their belief structure. We do the small talk and talk about the latest sitcom just to maintain some level of connection. We go about our daily business exchanging pleasantries and pretend not to notice that there is a huge gulf between us.

None of those options seem satisfying to me. None of them seem sustainable. I can’t completely isolate myself or just hide in the bunker with likeminded people. I can’t take on the whole world and make the Herculean effort to battle for their soul. At least I can’t do it for very long. I also can’t sustain a relationship where we never talk about anything we might disagree about. The best case I can come up with is that we have to do all three simultaneously. We retreat from the world when we need to. We battle to help a few people we care about. We maintain superficial relationships with the rest.

Spending nearly 30 years as a fully functioning adult has taught me a few things about myself. First, I have never had full 100 percent conviction of my beliefs. It is always somewhat unsettling to run up against someone that seems to be so sure about something that seems to antithetical to something I believe. I have always considered that self-doubt to be a strength. Anyone that is 100 percent sure has no opportunity to grow.

The second thing I know is that it is hard for me to let go. Some people are capable of cutting people out of their life fairly easily. I’ve never quite understood that. Of course, this cuts both ways. It means I will try to salvage relationships others would give up on. As laudable as that sounds, I know from personal experience I have been a lot happier the few times I have managed to give up on a relationship. Finding that balance is one of the most difficult things about adulting.

I suppose this is just a long and drawn out way of saying I don’t have any good answers to this particular dilemma. Recognizing evil in the world is something we all have to face someday. It’s something we try to shield our kids from for as long as we can. Seeing that evil in the beliefs and actions of those we love is soul crushing. Grieving the dead is a part of life. Grieving the living is so much worse.

Election Post-Mortem

It may seem a bit premature to do this considering the official results are not in yet, but I think we have a pretty good idea of what is going to happen. The presidency will be close either way and the Senate will be tighter no matter how the runoff elections turn out. Some coaches are fond of saying that you can have learning moments even in victory. So, let me run through some of mine.

Work to activate hearts and minds and not change hearts and minds

The final vote count will be somewhere between 140 and 145 million. That’s a record, but also a little lower than some people projected. Some pundits thought it would be north of 150 million voters. Who knows how many mail in ballots won’t be counted or how many people would have voted if it not for the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the Lincoln Project and other prominent conservatives tried to peel off some of the conservative vote to Biden. You had numerous conservatives endorse Joe Biden and a few (most notably John Kasich) spoke at his convention. At the end, Trump received more votes than any GOP candidate in history and a higher percentage than he did in 2016.

There is a hard core of 40 to 45 percent of voters on each side that aren’t changing no matter what. So, your challenge is to activate not, not to convert them. The other challenge is to get that 15-20 percent in the middle to choose your guy or girl.

Be True to Yourself

A friend shared a blurb about me in the high school newspaper. It asserted that I would become an anarchist when I grew up. During high school Government, one of the girls in my class asserted that I was a communist. Granted, they were both jokes I’m sure, but those two stories stuck with me as I pondered the campaign.

Democrats have been called liberals, socialists, and communists. We avoided nominating Bernie Sanders twice because we were afraid he would be labeled a socialist. So, we nominated two centrists and they were still labeled socialists. Biden desperately tried to cast himself as a centrist, so he even bucked the progressive wing of the Democratic party. It didn’t matter. It still doesn’t. Conservatives on social media and in your inner circle are convinced he is either a socialist or a Trojan horse for socialism. You can fight that narrative if you want, but you aren’t getting very far.

So, remember rule number one. We want to activate hearts and minds and not change them. People that want to call you a socialist are going to call you a socialist. My conservative friends will call me what they want to call me and many already have. You simply state your positions on the issues that matter and let the chips fall where they may.

Pete Buttigieg is probably the model for this and he isn’t even a part of the “socialistic” wing of the party. He went on Fox News numerous times and took it directly to them. Don’t equivocate. Don’t aw shucks your way out. Don’t obfuscate when they call you a socialist on a particular issue. Explain your position. You won’t change many minds, but you might energize some people that already agree with you.

Get Better at Branding

This is what I called issue framing in a previous article. The whole concept of “defunding police” is the absolute worst branding of an issue I have ever seen. I know what their aims are. It makes perfect sense. When I hear “defund” I think of the Purge. That’s what conservatives were able to paint without a whole lot of effort.

We live in a 280 character, 30 second sound byte, internet meme kind of culture. One of the things progressives want to do is show a command of the issues. If I had 30 minutes I could tell you about the merits of any issue. We don’t have 30 minutes. Sometimes we might not even have three. We need to do a better job of communicating ideas in short bursts that will resonate and not scare anyone away.

Project Strength and Confidence

This is something Trump has been good at. Think of the end of a football, basketball, or baseball game. The team in front has that moment when they switch from playing to win to playing not to lose. Football teams go into a prevent defense. Basketball teams go into a stall offense. Baseball teams go to their bullpen and start sweating each out.

So, strength and confidence doesn’t mean going to the authoritarian playbook. It simply means remembering your strengths and continually playing to them. If you look at the majority of the issues, progressives have the advantage. When you remove red and blue labels from policy proposals, the people mostly pick the progressive policy. Whether it is education, health care, the economy, or the pandemic response, they mostly favor progressive policies. Some obviously won’t and some will bellow loudly about how stupid or dangerous it is. We have allowed volume to replace multitude.

At the end of the day, if we assume others will be running in 2024 instead of Biden (assuming one term as his critics have said) this isn’t meant as an endorsement of the more progressive wing of the party. It might mean that, but it more accurately means someone that can communicate their vision with confidence and without worrying what someone else might call them. After all, they will call you that no matter what you do. They have been calling me that for 30 years.

A Baffling Conversation

I had one of those confusing conversations with a friend after one of my previous posts. He may indeed read this post, so I will leave his name out of it out of respect to him and anyone else who might share his views. The argument was over violence and who is to blame for violence. While everyone is still focused on the election, the issue of violence sits uncomfortably in the background. We know that as soon as someone is declared the winner there will be protesting.

I had a few thoughts on that. My first thought is that I have participated in only one protest before and it was for something I really didn’t believe in. I was required to do it for work since I worked at a Catholic school at the time. We protested at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Houston. Most of us there didn’t really want to be there, so our protest wasn’t exactly robust.

Anyone that reads these knows I care deeply about some things. I’m just not the protesting type. I suspect most of you are in the same boat. So, we need to frame our discussion. If most of us are not the protesting type then why are we getting offended when we talk about protesting and rioting? Who exactly are we talking about?

As I stand right now, the results appear to be between a two and four point victory in the popular vote for Biden. It will depend on how the last mail in votes land. There will be legal battles as those last few battleground states make their determination. It wasn’t a landslide vote and it wasn’t all that different nationwide from what it was in 2016. So, again, what are we talking about?

The FBI Director (appointed by the current president) has spoken at length about the threat of white supremacist groups. He has also spoken about Antifa. I had two grandfathers that were Antifa. They proudly served in the Navy and Army during WW2. How were they Antifa? Well, it stands for Anti-fascist. I would suspect many of us have relatives that were also Antifa.

The director himself admitted that Antifa was more of an idea. Black Lives Matter is also primarily an idea. The organization has some pretty whacky ideas, but most people identify with the general aims. Christopher Wray has always been more concerned with white supremacist groups than with Antifa or BLM.

So, if a member of one of those groups commits an act of vandalism or violence what is one to do? It seems pretty simple to say that you condemn that act of violence or vandalism. Whether you condemn the group depends on whether the act was sanctioned by the group itself or whether it was a rogue individual acting on his or her own.

There are two differences that I see. First, when we see an act of violence or vandalism we need to be clear about who is responsible. I reference the Boogaloo Bois in Minnesota. They burned down the the police precinct. Why? Well, when the average person hears about a police precinct being burned down they are going to naturally assume it was BLM or Antifa. There have been numerous events like this where counter protesters have stoked violence, stood back, and let left wing groups take the blame.

Of course, that can’t explain everything. People have acted badly. This is where the second difference comes in. There are organizations, groups, or gangs that specifically do these kinds of things. As the kids say, it’s a feature and not a bug. They exist to do damage, sew unrest, and cause chaos. Then there are groups aiming to bring about positive change, but have individuals within their groups that go against that positive message. There is certainly culpability there. You are responsible for what your people do. However, it is far different to have bad actors acting in bad faith and have people doing exactly what you want them to do.

There is a third difference. It is one thing to say that Biden and other Democrats have not done a good job of denouncing left wing extremists. That would probably be a fair criticism. I certainly haven’t spent a lot of air time here doing that. I’ll certainly take that criticism head on. However, there is a huge difference between not denouncing vandalism and violence and actively rooting for it.

I hate to have to keep doing this, but I explicitly am stating this here. I don’t think that is where most people are at. I think most people just want violence and vandalism to stop. Like most of us, they have on partisan shades that help them see the bad actors on the other side, but blind them from the ones on their own side. Again, I’ll cop to that.

Still, the president of the United States is actively cheering these people on. Everyone has already voted, but maybe we can all take a moment to ponder what this means. When I spoke of people protesting after the election it was out of an expectation that they might be actively encouraged to protest. Protesting is fine, but when groups that use questionable or illegal tactics are praised we have to be concerned about what happens next.

What to expect tomorrow

I decided to write tomorrow’s piece tonight. Election day is going to be wild as it always is. I’m going to run through three scenarios of what might happen. I think you will notice a pattern and understand the reason why many of us are nervous.

Scenario One: Biden wins in a blowout

538 actually did a better job of predicting the 2016 election than many pundits said after the fact. They had Hillary winning by five to six points. She won by three points. Those three points are within the margin of error. It just so happens that national polling doesn’t matter as much as people like to think. Everything broke right for Trump. He managed to bleed two to three points off of Hillary’s lead nationwide.

When you are in a race that will come down to a couple of percentage points, those two to three points can make the difference between winning and losing. He won several states by less than a percentage point. In other words, it was the electoral equivalent of winning an eight game exacto parlay.

538 has Biden up by 8.8 points going into tomorrow. That’s nearly four points more than Hillary had four years ago. So, if you get the same three point bleed rate then Biden wins by between five and six points. That’s not an electoral blowout, but it’s significant. If you don’t have the bleed rate it’s a blowout.

Trump is not going down without a fight. He will probably still sue and he won’t concede. Even if he does concede, he can still do a lot of damage between November 3rd and January 20th. Keep in mind, this is the very best we can hope for. We could get civil unrest, but it would be on the progressive side. If Trump tries to contest an election where Biden wins handily it could end up causing protesting in Washington and other major cities.

Scenario Two: Biden Wins a Nail Biter

So, let’s say that 538 is right, but we have the same kind of bleed rate that we had in 2016. Why do these bleed rates occur? Well, there is a margin or error. Sometimes people change their minds. Sometimes the voter suppression tactics work. Sometimes the sample that you used isn’t 100 percent representative of the overall voting population.

If a nine point lead becomes a six point lead then it is next to impossible for Trump to pull off the magic trick he pulled off in 2016. Still, it will be close enough for him to tie up the election for weeks until the Electoral College is supposed to vote on December 14th.

The problem here is that you end up activating the nuts that have been causing all of the unrest in recent weeks. So, the idiots will go out with their guns and their trucks and make a lot of noise. It will be a tense few weeks, but hopefully the courts will uphold the victory.

Scenario Three: It’s Too Close to Call

This is the nightmare scenario. If 538 is seriously wrong then it could turn into another two or three point race again. It will probably still Biden with the two or three point advantage, but we saw how that turned out in 2016. Trump will be able to tie up the election results as long as he wants or declare victory tomorrow night and force Biden to fight for mail in ballots to be counted.

The worst part of this whole thing is that both sides will think they are getting screwed. Progressives will wonder how a nine point lead turned into a two or three point result. The other side will be fomented by frequent talks about voter fraud. This will especially be true if the election comes down to those mail in votes.

My Prediction

The most likely scenario is scenario number two. One of the phonomenom we noted in 2016 was the notion of the “shy Trump voter”. Essentially, these are the folks that would answer poll questions with either an undecided vote or for Hillary. They felt ashamed to say they were voting for Trump.

That can be a logical explanation for the bleed rate we saw in 2016. I wonder if those folks are still shy about voting for Trump. Still, I think their voter suppression methods are more sophisticated now than they were then. So, I think the most likely scenario is a victory in the neighborhood of six points nationally. That would make the EC count somewhere between 300 and 350 for Biden.

The bigger issue is the legal schenanigans and protesting that will come from this. When you spend as much time poisoning the water as Trump has, there is no turning back. This thing won’t be over tomorrow night no matter which way it goes. We can hope for the best, but we are going to have to strap in for a bumpy ride.

The point of no return

Tomorrow is obviously a big day and everyone wants to just get it over with. However, a couple of news stories surrounding the election developed over the weekend and while they are election related, they are bigger than who ends up taking any of the offices.

The first has been a developing story for over a week. The Texas GOP is trying to get all of the drive in ballots in Harris Country thrown out. That would end up being over 100,000 ballots. The genesis of their case is that drive in voting was only supposed to be for disabled voters. However, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what they are trying to do.

Harris County has been voting blue for the past few elections. It is possible that those individual ballots could be going for Biden and Hegar as much as 60/40 because of the demographics involved. The legal battle is an end around the system to limit the vote. It represents a step or two beyond their normal tactics. Don’t take my word for it. Let’s consider Speaker of the House in the Texas state legislature Joe Strauss.

We will leave that by itself. The next story is even more despicable. A group of Trump supporters in trucks decided to try to run a Biden/Harris campaign bus off the road. The intimidation tactic worked. The Biden/Harris campaign canceled all of their events for that day. The desired effect is plainly obvious. Texas is close and if that stunt sways one or two percentage points it could make the whole difference.

The sickening thing about this is the reaction to it on social media and the fact that it worked in the first place. Several people tried to downplay it and even blamed the damage on another vehicle on that driver. They were driving recklessly. It was their fault. It wasn’t the fact that a half dozen BAT (big ass trucks) were menacing all of the other cars on the road in addition to the campaign bus. Nope, it couldn’t have been that.

Of course, the second problem is that the president is cheering these people on. It never was about law and order. It has never been about the relationship between civil disobedience and potentially violent protesting. It is about what you look like and who you support.

We are hearing this rhetoric everywhere in this campaign. Lindsay Graham (senator from South Carolina) joined in the fun with this little tidbit about women in his campaign. This special dedication goes out to all the lovely ladies in the audience.

What does all of this add up to? This election is more than just one man. It is more than just about a few dozen men and women that will hold elected office. It’s not about presidents, representatives, senators, and judges. It’s not about school board members, county officials, and dog catchers. It is about who we are.

The quote from Strauss above proves this is not about Republican or Democrat. The divide in this country is not red and blue. The divide in this country is between the honorable and dishonorable. It is between those that believe in the rule of law and those that only follow the rules when it suits them. It is between those that believe in fighting to persuade as many voters as you can to win and those that want to intimidate everyone unless they support you.

If you have not entered the voting booth yet, consider this. If Trump wins then it validates all of the tactics we have seen in Texas over the last several weeks. It validates that. It affirms it. It tells those jackasses in the Trump trucks and the sleazy lawyers seeking to disenfranchise voters that it worked. They will not only do it again. They’ll do worse next time.

If Biden wins then it gives the opportunity for the GOP to rediscover their soul. I don’t want a world without conservatives. I want a world where conservatives come up with their own ideas and sell them to the American people in good faith. The GOP isn’t going away. They need to regroup and rediscover who they really are. They are not Trump. A Trump victory sticks his tentacles into them even further. This vote isn’t about either man. It is about democracy. How badly do we want to keep it?