Real World Choices

In 1980, I was the Republican candidate running for Congress against Andy Jacobs, Jr..

Andy was an enormously likable and popular guy, who consistently won in a Republican district.  I never failed to make the point that the most important vote he cast was for Speaker of the House. If voters preferred that the GOP (which then included lots of fiscally-conservative, socially moderate, sane folks) control Congress, they needed to cast their votes accordingly.

It wasn’t a very persuasive argument. People like to believe that individual lawmakers (and Presidents, for that matter) can make more of a difference than they really can. And in all fairness, in 1980 there were a lot of officeholders in both parties who worked across the aisle.

That was then. Paul Krugman recently summarized where we are now.

There has never been a time in American history when the alleged personal traits of candidates mattered less. As we head into 2016, each party is quite unified on major policy issues — and these unified positions are very far from each other. The huge, substantive gulf between the parties will be reflected in the policy positions of whomever they nominate, and will almost surely be reflected in the actual policies adopted by whoever wins.

Krugman goes on to list the vastly different political priorities of today’s Republicans and Democrats, and to offer some reasons for what he calls the greatest partisan polarization since the Civil War.

My own shorthand–my own “litmus test” is simple: I’ve given up voting for the “best candidate,” or even for the “lesser of two evils.”  I vote for the candidate whose party is currently pandering to the least dangerous special interests.

We know who calls the shots in the party of Mike Pence, Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers. Even if a slightly less rabid nominee emerges, he (it is very unlikely to be a she) will owe his soul to the theocrats and plutocrats of the very far right.

That’s damaging enough in Indiana, as we’ve seen. But it’s truly unthinkable at the national level; among other things, the next President is likely to fill several Supreme Court vacancies.

You don’t have to be thrilled with the Democrats, or a fan of Hillary Clinton (to be candid, I’m neither), to understand your real-world options.


  1. Before moving to Europe, we lived in a deep red area of AZ and considering that expat votes are only counted in a run off, I doubt I’d bother any more. I’m not fond of Hillary and I’d rather see Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren or someone else that holds my liberal views toward the country serve as President. I might just request a ballet if anyone of those comes out soon. sigh…

  2. Barack Obama’s book and belief, “The Audacity of Hope” drew me to this man who was twice elected President. I believe he is still hanging onto that same “audacity of hope” that Republicans and Democrats can – and will – sit at the bargaining table and seek solutions – NOT shoot at each other across that table. The need for this type of bargaining on local, nation and international issues is greater today than ever before. I stand by my belief that it CAN happen; but my doubt is greater that is WON’T happen in my lifetime. I have said before that this country is involved in another Civil War; our freedom and the union are in jeopardy. Once again it is brother against brother, friend against friend, neighbor against neighbor; with elected fools at the controls of Congress. I have also said before that the current political situation shows what little control the President of the United States actually has when those elected fools can control our country as well as where our tax dollars are used and SCOTUS is removing civil and human rights long fought for since before this country was founded. I will vote for Hillary Clinton if she is chosen to run for President and I believe she can and will serve us well. This country will be in mortal danger if a Republican is elected President in 2016 and we will be in the crosshairs of Iran, Russia, ISIS and ISIL armed with nuclear weapons we were unable to negotiate control of due to the inability of the privately owned GOP to allow President Obama to peacefully negotiate at the interntional bargaining table where “Real World Choices” are made.

  3. The message is that the extremes are where the battles are fought, but somewhere between those extremes is where governance has to reign. For example, the tea party has shown that it has given little, if any thought to the consequences of some of its proposed changes to the structure and function of our government. The same can be said for some on the extreme left. More people need to recognize that every issue is not about them alone; their families and neighbors are also part of the picture.

  4. The baseline numbers in the Jacobs-Carson-Carson district have never shown the district to have a Republican majority during my lifetime. Hudnut won it in 1972 in the GOP landslide. But that was an aberration. A few have come close over the years, but that’s due to Democratic crossover for Republicans. Republican candidates have generally done very well holding the GOP base vote – but Republicans can’t win the district without Democratic vote. Of the three Democrats who have held the district during the last several decades- Andy Jacobs, Julia Carson, and Andre Carson, it’s actually Andre who has done the best holding his Democratic base from GOP defections.

  5. We are mostly the product of old scenes stuck in our memories all there as a product of our senses. One group of those memories is of people we have observed who we grant credibility to as they seem like us. Or perhaps the us we’d like to be. Our personal culture. The American culture is what other cultures notice about traits that are common in Americans and different from their culture.

    Much that is dysfunctional in American culture today is because it came not from observing real people living out their lives under real circumstances but people pretending to be real under imaginary circumstances. We’ve been told by them that they are superior to us and should be referred to as stars. They shine more brightly in our sky then we non stars do.

    Of course they are illusions, products if you will, imagined in order to be sold to us as balms for our struggling souls. We lavish wealth on them and the folks who imagine their lives and erect them before us.

    I have always had heroes but am not particularly open to stardom. I don’t know why. Stubborness perhaps. Independance. Or perhaps my rejection of them is my own illusion. Our eyes face outward not inward.

    Among my heroes have always been statesmen. Imagine being able to sit down with many diverse others and present your agenda as compelling to all and win others over to your side and leave the room having converted enemies to friends and built alliances that didn’t exist prior to your efforts.

    But in our media centered culture heroes have been replaced by imaginary stars.

    Political candidates today are stars created in factories to be sold to us through big media. They shine prior to election but behave in the real world that follows pretty dismally. They are not real statesmen but only the illusion of such.

    If there are to be future generations this glaring weakness in ours will have to be exposed to light and its magic removed. Future cultures will have to point to our stupidity and laugh at our suckerness.

    Again, if there are future generations.

  6. Paul–The current district is very different from the old 11th District, which is the one I ran in. (You have to remember–I’m old.)

  7. In an ideal world, we would not have to wear political labels. We would be able to evaluate the candidates for office based on their resume, honestly stated policy stances, and their ability to attract honest and competent administrators to work with them. Collaboration would be valued not condemned.

    We see occasional examples of this dream world in cataclysmic events where politics is set aside when imminent destruction/death threaten. All too soon, politics rears its ugly head and the polarization and finger-pointing command the stage.

    I have voted for Republicans in the past, based on my own limited ability to understand the issues and the person running. Unfortunately, honesty often is low on the list of priorities for the candidates. The spin is so complex, disingenuous or full of outright lies that the voter gets discouraged or disgusted and opts out of the process.

    How do we change it? Take the big money out of the races. Limit contributions to those who actually live in the districts. Term limits. Shorten the campaign season to a defined period. Open primaries. Expand the voter base with motor/voter registration, extended hours, early voting sites, vote by mail. There are so many ideas and solutions being offered and actually occurring in some cities/states. If only they were happening in Indiana.

    I have been reading an account of the summer of 1776 that clearly shows that it was only when the mechanics, artisans and farm tenants (at that time, if they did not own property, they could not vote) got politically involved with petitions and militias. The powerful property owners who were usually well educated and very wealthy had initiated the move to leave the British Empire, but the common folk had to be involved to make it work.

    Maybe when the voters finally get much more aware of the oppression that directly affect their daily lives will they rise up and rest power away from the broker/thieves/liars. We get conned almost daily by those in power as they strive to consolidate/retain their hold over wealth/status in the mass media.

    I hope I live long enough to see it happen. My fear is that it will get much worse before it gets better. Our collective welfare may have to be much more disrupted before outrage boils over into action.

  8. Lets be pragmatic about this whole GOP ideology and place on the table a clear picture of how they think and just what is wrong with their line of thought:

    Plainly put the GOP thinks along the same line as Adolph Hitler. There can be no extrapolation on this. Plain and simple Fascism. This is evinced by every evidence of what is on their minds and plates. Today’s GOP wants a Fascist state with a Cruise Fuhrer leading.

    At the end of WWII what were all the warriors clamoring for? A continuation of war against the Soviet Union. Not a single note of the playbook has been altered. Russia is a threat and will always be a threat because Socialism might work and they cannot allow it. Europeans are given to stringency, regimentation, and horseplay. They do not fare well without a king.

  9. Thank you Earl; I have been looked at as insane when I compared the current GOP and Republican voters to the Holocaust and those “good” Germans who knew nothing about what was happening around them – even in their tiny villages outside the extermination camps while smelling the stink of burning bodies. The stink of Congress is suffocating us; at the top and here locally. I have also said for decades, since before the end of the Cold War – do NOT trust Russia. Well; at last someone understands and agrees basically with my comparisons and sees Russia for the enemy it has been since tricking the U.S. before and during WWII. It will take more than you and I, Earl, to remember the past and continue urging others to remember rather than repeat it. The younger voters need to be educated; not given free reign in the media and at the polls. The city of Indianapolis and the state of Indiana have been the focal point of ridicule for the nation but it is waning too quickly and too soon. Repairing government at the federal level begins at the local level; you cannot repair the roof of a storm damaged house which is crumbling into the basement and expect the house to be habitable when the roof is done.

    Sheila said the 11th District today is not the same as the 11th District she represented long ago; I argue that she is not old – “old” is a state of mind and “old” Sheila ain’t:) We have to move forward with the times but we must make careful decisions as to what to retain from the past and what to dump. The current GOP Congress cannot be recycled, repaired, renovated or reused – it must be dumped – we must begin the dumping process here in this city and state and during this 2015 election year, NOT wait till the presidential election in 2016 and expect she or he to do it for us.

  10. One thought Earl.

    Hitler was a very flawed but real person. If there was one redeeming thing about him and his demented mind it was that he took credit for what he was trying to do. Once he had enough rubes in Germany to keep in power he was up front about stealing from the rest of the world.

    I would say that somewhere between most and all politicians today in America are fictional characters drawn up in back rooms by puppet masters and presented for our consideration in full makeup and with credible acting skills. As our windows to the real world are now screens large, medium and small, we lemming along led by our addiction to entertainment.

    I hate to think of what Hitler would be today with the current technology to amplify personality and obscure intellect.

    He conquered Germany first. We are selling America.

  11. sorry, I still think it would be better if we elected congress like we select jury pools. Take a pool of registered voters, kick out those who don’t qualify because of age or residence status or other legal requirements to hold office. Then send the last one standing to Washington for ONE term. They can’t do any worse than the current clown car and they wouldn’t be there long enough to be controlled by the lobbyists.

  12. “Plainly put the GOP thinks along the same line as Adolph Hitler.”

    Oh, come the Hell on.

    This just makes everyone over here look silly.

  13. I think the Gopper makes a good point. Hitler tried to conquer the world militarily.

    Oligarchs, through the Great Oligarchy Plot, want to conquer only America and by buying it.

    Perhaps the analogy is limited to Hitlers rise to power in Germany rather than what followed. And to be fair there’s a difference in the strongarm tactics. The Great Oligarchy plot is much more subtle. Mental and economic rather than physical.

    I guess that’s progress.

  14. Perhaps this proposal for a Letter to the Editor that I submitted is apropos.

    “Freedom. It’s what we all want, but how do we get it, really.”

    “Living in a strong country for sure. Living under the smallest set of restrictions that prevent others from imposing what’s best for them on us certainly. Having government organized by a specific set of rules that define its responsibilities and authority and processes is another part.”

    “But I think the most important contributor is democracy. All of the people engaged in the choice of who represents us in the institution of government.”

    “That part is highly dependent on education and information that’s relevant, like records of past accomplishments and the judgment of priority among the problems that risk our pursuit of happiness and recommendations of specific solutions.”

    “Certainly not the store bought irrelevant ad hominem blather that we will suffer through during the coming months as big purses pursue favoritism.”

    “God help us.”

  15. But, Pete, the load of mental and economic stress on millions in this country is taking a heavy physical toll on the middle and low income of the current American caste system. And the wide breach between the 1-2% and the rest of us continues to widen and the stress gets heavier. I am living today on Social Security and small pension which totals what I earned working in 1982 and am lucky to have that at my disposal. The plumbing and furnace problems (I know, I am lucky to have plumbing and a furnace) plus maintaining escalating utility and food bills are vieing with maintenance on my 19 year old car and meeting my medical needs. Factor in the hopelessnss of any improvement and these conditions are killing off those less fortunate slowly but surely. There are still many who do not have health care protection; when their condition reaches the level of life or death, their only option is the nearest ER. Escalating medical, prescription costs for all of us and takes our tax money to cover because the Republicans have refused federal Medicaid expansion dollars which has denied many elderly and disabled Medicaid assistance and their food stamps are gone. Which do you prefer; quick genocide or slow starvation?

  16. JoAnn: here’s the latest TED video that reinforces some of your points.

    The American Dream that we are losing a piece of every day has always been that opportunity could replace poverty. The failure to maintain that vision falls on most all of us. If there is ever to be a return to a similar but viable vision we first have to climb out of the swamp we are building and along the way reimagine earth and life and humanity.

    That we can do this has never been questioned. That we will is the big question that hangs more than anything on will we have to. Mother Nature will do what we fail at. We aren’t going to like her solutions. Heck, we might not even survive her solutions.

    Will we resume responsibility for mankind before it’s too late?

  17. According to the Internet most TEDs are captioned. Perhaps this being the most recent one it hasn’t been processed that way yet.


  18. Little history lesson, Gopper:

    Starting in April 1945 the NAZI party left created Odessa, a program wherein the Catholic church, the Red Cross and the American Military colluded to transport as many Nazis as possible to the United States. Thousands were saved from Nuremberg . It took Israel decades to ferret them out from all over the world. The final outcome was the installation of one of the major offenders, Wernher VonBraun, was placed at the head of the Space Program and paid millions.

    Mr. Gopper, where do you think these people, and their progeny, are today?

  19. My old neighborhood on the west side of Indianapolis was bordered by Stadium Drive to West 30th Street on the north side; Montcalm Street to White River on the west side. The huge grain silos; still standing in the 1100 Block of West 18th Street between Montcalm and Gent Avenue, began as Cerealine Mills producing a health food cereal; later named Glidden Feed Mill and still later Central Soya. Across Gent Avenue the mill owners built a one block long, half block wide, two-story building of small apartments for the mill workers. Due to the flat roof it was always called “the flats”. Many of those mill workers were German prisoners of war during WWI; no idea if they were returned to Germany after the war or stayed and were accepted into the Indianapolis community. I know that area was once called Germantown. Are there other businesses here who used POWs? This is the same country who, during WWII, placed American born Japanese-Americans in concentration camps after confiscating everything they owned. Incidentally, I read a Facebook post by George Takei a few days ago that many of these confiscated items are now being auctioned off. Bad as gerrymandering is for residents who are “displaced” without being moved; it pales in comparison with these situations. At least they only move boundaries, not residents, and residents are allowed to keep what is their’s; except for the tax dollars that are squandared without our input. Does any of this fall under the heading of “Real World Choices” or am I overreaching on the issue? We have no choice regarding gerrymandering or where our tax dollars go any more than the German POWs had during WWI or the Japanese-Americans had during WWII. The current GOP control of Congress is certainly our “Real World” today and we are the only ones who can change the current status quo…by voting.

  20. I get frustrated with people who tell me they vote for the best candidate without regard to how that candidate, if elected, will affect the power structure in government. All the Democrats over the years who voted for Dick Lugar because he was qualified, likable, and independent-minded (at least before he started shifting to the right to keep up with the party’s primary voter base) need to keep this problem in mind: you’re not voting for a candidate. You’re voting for his or her party’s agenda.

    I would vote for a yellow dog before I’d vote for a Republican *or* Hillary Clinton for president. However, considering that any Republican candidate will be likely to make judicial appointments that are rather right-wing, ignore science in favor of BS (vaccines, evolution, climate change, etc.), and continue to pursue a bellicose foreign policy…and since there’s unlikely to be a yellow dog on the ticket…I will probably end up voting for Mrs. Clinton if she is the nominee.

  21. Bill, you make sense in a mad world.
    Pete, the oligarchy uses kid gloves only when it suits them. Throughout the world, they use the iron fist.

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