Mr. President, here’s what makes the ‘uncivil war’ so vicious

Guillaume

I wish my headline said, “Here’s how to end the uncivil war, Mr. President.” But I can’t say that, because I don’t know how to undo the damage.

But finally, after more than four years of bewilderment, I finally feel like I have a grip on what has caused the problem, and I’m not letting go. If I keep saying “Here it is!” enough, maybe someone else will see what to do about it, even if I don’t.

I’ve written about this in two posts now, here and here. In the second one, I mentioned having watched part of the documentary “The Social Dilemma,” and indicated I might say more about it when I’d seen it all. I finished watching it about a week ago, and yes, it certainly reinforced the epiphany I’ve been writing about. But I got distracted doing other things, and didn’t get to it.

Today (yesterday now, since I didn’t finish the post until Saturday), I’m reminded of the urgency by a several things I’ve read — items that point to the continued rapid descent of most of the country’s Republicans into madness. There’s the case of that deranged woman from Georgia, and the House GOP’s deep reluctance to deal with her. (The Republican leader is too busy running down to Florida to beg forgiveness of his master.) There are stories about polls, showing how most of that party’s adherents are still shockingly lost in their delusions. There was a Frank Bruni piece about how Marco Rubio — and anyone else with designs on the GOP nomination in 2024 — has utterly degraded himself in the pursuit of the support of his party’s conspiracy wing. And more.

How did close to half the country lose its grip on reality? Well, that’s what I’ve been talking about in those previous posts, and return to today.

There’s a great moment near the start of “The Social Dilemma” when several tech industry veterans who are deeply concerned about what’s going on are asked to answer the question, “What’s the problem?”… and each of these otherwise articulate people stops, and stares vacantly, and for a long moment, fails to come up with an answer.

It made me feel better, because these were expert people who were here to talk about it, and had trouble explaining what the problem was.

As I said in my first post on this subject, I’ve been familiar with the problems for years, and felt stupid speaking of an “epiphany” when the basic facts were so obvious:

I’ve commented on this before. Everyone has. And I was conscious of the cause of the problem. But recently, I came to realize it, to understand it, to grok it, more fully. And it was as though I hadn’t thought about these things before.

It happened first when I listened to a podcast series from several months ago, called “Rabbit Hole.” If you haven’t listened to it, I wish you would…

That podcast helped the points sink in, to where it suddenly hit me that this was the explanation of Trumpism, specifically the explanation of how such a large portion of the country — close to half — had completely lost connection with reality, becoming immune to evidence to an extent far beyond old cliches about “confirmation bias” and such.

It was happening because they inhabited separate realities, which seemed as real to them as any other. And they were prepared to go to pretty much any lengths to defend their delusions, as we saw demonstrated so dramatically on Jan. 6, and in the willingness of so many to ignore the implications of those events. (By the way, these processes don’t just distort the perceptions of Trump supporters. It’s just that with Trump, you had a figure emerge who reinforced the tendencies of Qanon believers, white supremacists, and other whackos by repeatedly telling them it was all true, and that it was not only OK, but virtuous to embraces such insanity. This unprecedented situation caused that particular, easily deluded, segment of the population to go completely off the rails.)

Those experts momentarily lost the ability to address the Problem because it has so many aspects, all interacting with each other. But to simplify, these two factors are generally at the core:

  1. First, the fact that so many people now get all of their information that explains politics and the world to them from, shall we say, “nontraditional sources.” At the same time, part of what those sources have brainwashed them to believe is that the “traditional sources” — ones that operate according to procedures and ethics that require that facts actually check out before being reported — are “fake news,” and not to be trusted. Yes, this is very obvious, and doesn’t really explain things until you get to the second point…
  2. The way the Web works when it is successful. Success depends on keeping your attention, so that attention can be sold to advertisers. Which is the way newspapers, television, radio and other media monetized themselves — except that the Web is astonishingly better at it. And there’s one aspect of the algorithms that make them succeed more than anything: The simple matter of showing you what you like (or tell you what you want to hear), and then showing you more of it, to the point that you never get to anything else.

Ultimately, you end up living in a completely different reality from others whose predilections, in concert with the algorithms, have herded them into their own, distinct — and often diametrically opposed — universes. (Again, this works on MSNBC watchers as well as on the Fox people. But Rachel Maddow isn’t working in tandem with a POTUS who does not give a damn what the truth is. So things don’t get nearly as crazy. But it does mean that as Trump’s base gets crazier, people on the left move farther and farther away from them, and the Trump base sees that disdain, and gets crazier.)

Eventually, the deliberative processes that are essential to our system of representative democracy break down. Representatives who know their constituencies have no points of agreement on facts with people who live in other constituencies cast aside evidence and make themselves immune to persuasion, lest they lose their seats. Debate in legislative bodies is pointless, because it’s not about trying to achieve productive synthesis with the views of members on the other side of the aisle; it’s simply about proving one’s purity in adhering to the “reality” in which most of one’s constituents live.

Back to the movie…

“The Social Dilemma” has a lot of flaws, the most obvious of them being dramatization. When it sticks to tech gurus talking about the problem, it’s great. When it uses actors to act out the problems, it gets kind of cheesy. Perhaps that keeps more people watching (hey, just like YouTube!) but it almost made me turn it off a number of times.

The dramatizations try to capitalize on parents’ concerns about their children’s Web addiction — a very serious problem that all parents should worry about, but not the reason I’m watching. There’s this fictional family of actors, and you watch one teenaged boy who starts out fairly rational gradually get seduced into extreme views, to the exclusion of everything else in his life.

Perhaps the cheesiest thing — but I understand that someone thought this would help us understand better the way the algorithms work — are these fantasy sequences in which you see the algorithms personified. This one actor appears as three different parts of the online code, and his three “characters” have conversations with each other about how they are manipulating the teenager, as they gradually assemble a more and more complete model of the kid as he spends more time online. These scenes are exceedingly creepy — and meant to be — and I finally figured out one reason why. The actor personifying the algorithm is the one who played “Pete” on “Mad Men.” Creepy is what this guy does. (You kind of wonder what happened to him along the way to give him a face like that.)

But eventually the film confronts the issues that interest me, the ones I’ve written about in those preceding posts. This initially happens when, out of the blue, the person being interviewed is Guillaume Chaslot (pictured above), the Frenchman who helped develop YouTube’s “recommendation” software — before he realized with horror what it was doing.

I recognized him when he used the phrase “rabbit hole” — because his was one of the more important voices heard in the podcast series of that name. In the podcast, it was described how two developments on YouTube led to the creation of conditions that lead people to become committed conspiracy adherents — first, the moment when YouTube started allowing long videos, entire talk shows and such, to be posted. Then, the development of the current “recommendation” system, which essentially says, “You liked that? You’ll love this,” which so easily pulls people deeper into the hole as they watch one whack job’s video, then another more extreme one, then one more extreme than that, and on and on…

Mind you, the experts — the elements of the film I prefer — all insist that there are no bad guys (although the environment thus created is a welcome mat to bad guys, such as Vladimir Putin, to step in and use it). The aims of the people making these separate realities possible are fairly innocuous. As one of the main talking heads explains, as we’re watching the creepy Petes manipulate the kid:

At a lot of these technology companies, there’s three main goals.

There’s the engagement goal: to drive up your usage, to keep you scrolling.

There’s the growth goal: to keep you coming back and inviting as many friends and getting them to invite more friends.

And then there’s the advertising goal: to make sure that, as all that’s happening, we’re making as much money as possible from advertising….

Hey, there’s nothing wrong with that, I can tell you as an old newspaperman (at least, that’s what the people on the business side kept telling me — and of course I noticed that when they stopped making money, everything that was important to me disappeared. Which was bad…). But when Web-based businesses do the same thing, we start seeing processes that humanity has never seen before, and which evolution has not equipped us to handle.

Anyway, I urge you to watch this film as well. Because I think it’s important in the extreme for all of us to understand how people come to accept the most unlikely-seeming propositions, and cling to them with religious fervor — fiercely resisting any attempt to argue them back to reason.

Because it’s tearing us apart.

There are plenty of other ways in which these problems — or at least bits and pieces of them — are being examined. I was listening to a podcast yesterday in which a New York Times reporter who watched Qanon chats happening during the Inauguration on Jan. 20, with the true believers assuring each other that at any second, Trump would declare martial law and stop the “steal.” Did they wake up when it didn’t happen? Some did. Others told themselves they had simply misinterpreted Q’s prophesies. It’s an interesting examination of effects, if not causes.

Or the piece I read in the NYT this morning headlined “The Coup We Are Not Talking About.” The writer approaches the same problems from a different direction, that of the development of “surveillance capitalism.” I think it’s the wrong direction, but perhaps it’s because some of the connections he makes are unconvincing. But maybe he made a better case in his book on the same subject. Anyway, he touches on the problems I’m on about, although in the service of his thesis:

The third stage, which we are living through now, introduces epistemic chaos caused by the profit-driven algorithmic amplification, dissemination and microtargeting of corrupt information, much of it produced by coordinated schemes of disinformation. Its effects are felt in the real world, where they splinter shared reality, poison social discourse, paralyze democratic politics and sometimes instigate violence and death.

Yeah, he uses the word “epistemic” a lot. And in other ways, he fails to express himself with simple clarity. Kind of made me more sympathetic to the cheesy dramatizations of “The Social Dilemma.” At least they were trying to reach people outside of academia.

But hey, if it leads you to understand it better, try that approach. Because we all need to come to understand it.

And do something about it. Again, I don’t know what to do, what with the toothpaste being fully out of the tube and everyone slathering themselves with it (kind of overdid that metaphor, didn’t I?). But I figure we need a diagnosis before someone comes up with the cure.

By the way, to head off certain obvious objections… before someone cries, “you’re acting like things were fine before this,” allow me to point out the obvious fact that I am not. As I have documented over and over in recent decades, things have been getting nasty in our politics for some time. There have been a number of milestones of our division into tribes that despise each other, and won’t listen to each other, thereby making the function of a deliberative form of government increasingly impossible. You could point to the emergence of negative campaigning in 1982 (which helped to produce the likes of Lee Atwater and his acolyte Karl Rove), or the moment in late 1992 when I first saw a new “Don’t Blame Me; I Voted Republican” sticker on a car before Bill Clinton was even inaugurated. Or Democratic lunacy over Clinton’s impeachment, leading them to defend the indefensible — or, two years later, their claims (very civil, nonviolent and short-lived claims, as opposed to what we’ve seen in recent days) in 2000 that the election was “stolen.” Or for that matter, BDS. Or the rise of the Tea Party or the Freedom Caucus, and the maniacal determination to stop anything Barack Obama tried to do — or, failing that, to undo it. (Remember the bizarre spectacle of all those utterly vain votes to “repeal Obamacare?”)

All before Trump. But not all before this phenomenon that I’m talking about, which certainly played a role in the things we saw in the earlier part of this past decade. In any case, this new problem, or set of problems, landed in a nasty partisan environment, and then exponentially accelerated the sickness, with a twist.

I could say a lot more, but at well over 2,000 words, I’d better stop….

creepy Pete

Creepy Pete in triplicate, manipulating the kid.

 

170 thoughts on “Mr. President, here’s what makes the ‘uncivil war’ so vicious

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    And yes, I’m aware that someone could say, “Look, Brad’s falling victim to the same insidious problem he writes about.”

    After all, these are the kinds of words you might hear from someone who is diving deeper into a rabbit hole:

    But finally, after more than four years of bewilderment, I finally feel like I have a grip on what has caused the problem, and I’m not letting go….

    But as I say, I’m aware of that, and I’ve got an eye on myself. My zeal arises from four or five years of utter frustration as I tried to understand Trumpism. None of the explanations — such as the “Hillbilly Elegy” theorem — have been convincing to me. So I’ve been looking hard for the virus that’s causing the sickness.

    And finally, while I was listening to “Rabbit Hole,” something went “ding!” But instead of that meaning I had been converted to some conspiracy or cause, it meant I caught my first scent of the thing that’s tearing us apart. The game is afoot.

    And yes, I’m eager to understand it better. Because we need to figure out how to cope with what’s happening to us…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Oh, that reminds me. One of the things I’d like to enlarge upon is that reference to “processes that humanity has never seen before, and which evolution has not equipped us to handle.”

      That’s interesting on a number of levels. For instance, during most of the time our species has been on the planet, alternative perceptions of reality had a way of sorting themselves out. Your tribe ran into a saber-toothed tiger. Everyone immediately cooperated to kill it, or ran like hell. There was no debate about whether it was actually a saber-toothed tiger, or whether that was a good thing. Everyone operated on the basis of the same facts, with the only argument being whether the better approach was killing it or running.

      Sure, some may have doubted the facts, and stand there while everyone ran, but they tended to get eaten, and didn’t pass on their stupid genes.

      Things are more complicated now. The revolution in the transmission of information just in the last 20 years (an unimpressive portion of your life at my age) has been such that it might take a million years for our brains to adapt to it.

      Which ain’t gonna happen.

      Oh, and don’t get all technical with me about the diet of saber-toothed cats or the extent to which they overlapped with humans or how long such an evolutionary adaptation would take. You get my point…

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      One last thing, here in the moments after I posted this, and then I’ll go away for awhile…

      This post shows one of the reasons why I don’t post more often. I keep wanting to post things like this, and it just take so long to pull them together, and I find it really hard to find that much time. This wasn’t just more than 2,000 words; it was nearly 2,500.

      And of course, the longer you put off writing one of these, the more related ideas you accumulate, and it just gets worse and worse.

      I’m doing my best…

  2. bud

    And now we have the SCGOP censuring Tom Rice for voting to impeach individual 1. The two major political parties are very different at this point in time.

  3. Ken

    So I was out on my weekly stroll down a local walking trail today, looking for that feng shui that I can sometimes find out there. Instead, I pass a guy talking on his handless phone. As I passed, he started talking to the person on the other end about the idea that “anti-fascists had infiltrated the people at the Capital.” He went on: “I can believe that. I can totally believe that.” Then as I gradually moved out of earshot, I could hear him saying something about “manipulated videos” and “they just wanted to throw Trump under the bus.”
    More evidence that when people want to believe something, they can build elaborate stories and scenarios to make what they believe “true.”

  4. Mark Stewart

    And this is why redistricting as has recently been practiced the last couple of decades is so dangerous to our Constitutional society. The Supreme Court really blundered on this decision to just call redistricting a political exercise and the idea that this is a larger problem with targeted technology might help them to see the need to revisit. Maybe.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      That would be good. As I’ve often said, gerrymandering is one of our biggest problems.

      Of course, the problem can be seen most clearly with the House. And it’s a huge reason why so many GOP House members voted along with Ted Cruz in trying to toss out the results of an election, and then voted against impeachment. Those districts have been getting more and more extreme over the years.

      But how do we explain the descent of senators into such extremism? How do we explain Cruz and Hawley? How do we explain Lindsey Graham losing his mind? Lindsey has certainly drawn a lot of extreme primary opponents over the last couple of cycles, but before Trump he was always able to brush them off.

      The only way I can explain what’s happened to senators and others not elected from gerrymandering districts is the way gerrymandering has radicalized the entire party. Sure, there are other causes, but this one seems most obvious, even if indirect…

      1. Barry

        Well I’ve always thought Lindsey Graham‘s kissing up to John McCain was fake, I think losing McCain did impact Lindsay.

        He could always go it “alone“ with John. With John gone, he wasn’t willing to do it by himself.

        He had to hitch to someone else, anyone else.

  5. Doug Ross

    You allow anonymous people to post inflammatory rhetoric on your blog. You allow people to attack others anonymously. YOU are part of the problem. As long as trolls like barry, bill, bud, Ken, etc can pop on hear and drop their twisted version of reality without any accountability or consequence, you own a piece of what discourse has become. The fact that you would spend 2000 words to try and get one more shot in at Trump says a lot. You’ve literally wasted hundreds of hours of your life with no purpose or result in the past four years. Take a step back and ask yourself if it was worth it.

    (as always, I am not going to read any more comments on this post. So save your time trolls… Resume your misery.)

    1. Scout

      Doug,

      I’m sad for you that you are so bitter. It doesn’t bother me if you don’t read my response, but I’ll write it anyway to make my own point. I really disagree with a lot of what you have said. I guess you don’t see any intrinsic value in writing or discussion for it’s own sake. You don’t seem able to appreciate or acknowledge anybody else’s perspective. If you deem that there is no value to the discussion – that’s it, there is no value for anyone. I gather that you measure things only in black and white tangible results. If someone gains a new appreciation for something or someone or learns to respect another point of view from a discussion here – that has no value that you will acknowledge. And you feel able to make the judgement that “(Brad has) literally wasted hundreds of hours of (his) life with no purpose or result in the past four years”. I suspect Brad finds value in having written all he has. I certainly don’t think you are able to be aware of the results of his writing for individual readers who may have considered something a different way or changed their mind about something – but that doesn’t mean these things haven’t happened. I also don’t see Bill, Barry, Bud, Ken, (and I suspect I’m part of the etc.) as trolls or that they have no accountability or consequence. But I guess that is a perspective thing again – only your perspective matters. I think they contribute meaningful comments and viewpoints and they are changed and affected by participating in conversations and discussions here. I know you won’t see it that way. I just wish you the ability to acknowledge other people’s perspectives. And I wish you less bitterness. I find value in having written that whether you read it or acknowledge or not.

  6. bud

    As for the Gerrymandering, yep it’s a concern. But a bigger problem is with the senate. Democrats currently represent states with 41 million more people than Republicans yet the senate is a 50-50 split. Time to grant DC statehood. This offensive situation that denies congressional representation to 700,000 Americans must end.

    1. Barry

      I did hear GOP consulted Scott Jennings say over the weekend that the Republicans were basically a minority party now because of the popular vote situation

      He was saying this in reference to a lot of the Republican embrace of conspiracy theory promoter Marjorie Green

    2. Mark Stewart

      Puerto Rico should be a state; it would be about the 30th largest with about 3.2 million people. DC is only larger than Wyoming and Vermont.

      Amazingly, more than 31% of the country’s total population lives in just 4 states. To further unbalance the situation, only 37 states have a population over 2 million, so lots of runts wield disproportionate power. But the consideration not received by the populations of these four states in the Senate is just staggering.

      BTW, the median for all states is 4.5 million citizens.

      We are going to need to rethink the way the US Senate is represented; that’s just a fact if we want to see another 200 years for this country. Even a minimum of 1 seat per state isn’t going to go far enough. I know that the Senate represents sovereign states; but this situation is growing dangerous when the whims of the small states have such consequential impacts upon the entire nation – especially with such a massive block of unrepresented people. If all the states with a current population under 3 million were reduced to 1 Senate seat this would “free up” 17 seats to be reallocated. By voters, economic output, or some other way.

      1. Bryan Caskey

        There are eleven states with populations under 1.5 million.

        1. Wyoming 581,075
        2. Vermont 623,251
        3. Alaska 724,357
        4. North Dakota 770,026
        5. South Dakota 896,581
        6. Delaware 990,334
        7. Rhode Island 1,061,510
        8. Montana 1,085,000
        9. Maine 1,354,520
        10. New Hampshire 1,372,200
        11. Hawaii 1,406,430

        Which states do you think will consent to give up their equal representation in the Senate?

        “no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate” (Article V, U.S. Constitution)

        1. bud

          Bryan, we kind of talk past each other on this because we view the “constituencies” very differently. I just don’t view state’s interests as relevant. I look at our federal government entirely through the lens of people. But to your point the people within states don’t wish to give up power so a constitutional amendment is a non starter. But damn it just seems so unfair to millions of Americans who just want a functional federal government.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Bud, your view puzzles me.

            The United States is, as the name suggests, a union of states. (One that decided to place its capital on neutral land that one of the states — originally two, but we only used the land from one — contributed for the purpose).

            Our Constitution is an agreement between, again, states. The entire country is based upon that agreement.

            So I just don’t know where you’re getting that…

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Oh, and to state my position again.

              I find arguments for making our capitol — land specifically set aside to be OUTSIDE of all the states — into a state unconvincing.

              I’m not at all opposed to considering statehood for Puerto Rico. I’m not an active proponent of it — yet — but I think there’s a legitimate case to be made, as was made for Alaska and Hawaii.

              But D.C. just doesn’t make sense. If we make it a state, then where do we put our capital? And who pays for moving it? And what will D.C. do with those empty buildings?

              1. bud

                I used to sort of agree with point about not granting DC statehood. No longer. It’s reprehensible to disenfranchise 700,000 people.

                1. Bryan Caskey

                  “It’s reprehensible to disenfranchise 700,000 people.”

                  If you’re truly motivated by allowing the people of DC to be represented, then you certainly shouldn’t oppose the idea of retroceding the land back to Maryland and Virginia, right?

                2. Mark Stewart

                  We could make a “federal district” that would only include the lands the Federal Gov’t is actively using – and return the rest to Maryland. That seems like the best solution; DC would just be a city in Maryland. Then everyone would have representation and the business of national government would be “owned” by us all.

              2. randle

                The Constitution only specifies that the land set aside for the Capitol area be no more than 10 square miles. Congress has reduced the area before, and they could do it again, so that it just includes the Capitol and other federal buildings nearby. Then the rest of D.C. could be admitted as a state by a simple majority vote of Congress, as Congress has express powers to do so under Article VI, section 3, which says, “New states may be admitted by the Congress into this union; but no new states shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other state; nor any state be formed by the junction of two or more states, or parts of states, with out the consent of the legislatures of the states concerned as well as of the Congress.”
                As for Maryland taking over D.C., that’s a terrible idea. I grew up in Md., right outside of D.C.; don’t see D.C. wanting to give up its identity. So D.C. would be a very tiny state. People always talk about what the Founders would want. They founded a country based on the natural rights of men — one of the most important being the right to representation under a government you support. They fought an empire for that right. I think they would want that basic tenet honored, and I doubt if they would think sticking to their original plan for the Capitol was more important. And they never expected that we would slavishly stick to things that no longer worked. In fact, they expected just the opposite. And said so. They were revolutionaries, after all.

                1. Bryan Caskey

                  “Then the rest of D.C. could be admitted as a state by a simple majority vote of Congress, as Congress has express powers to do so under Article VI, section 3, which says, “New states may be admitted by the Congress into this union; but no new states shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other state; nor any state be formed by the junction of two or more states, or parts of states, with out the consent of the legislatures of the states concerned as well as of the Congress.”

                  So you would at least need Maryland to consent, then. Would it? I don’t know how Maryland might feel about a new state right on its border. You would also have to repeal the 23rd Amendment, right? Because if you didn’t the few hundred people in the remaining tiny district would still get presidential electors.

                  Again, as I’ve stated before, if people living in DC value the opportunity they have to vote once every two, four or six years, the easiest thing would be for them to move to an actual state. The fact that they don’t move suggests that they value the vote less than various other things.

                2. Brad Warthen Post author

                  Randle, I thought you were going one way, but you made a sudden turn on me.

                  I thought, when you said the federal district could be reduced to the part where the actual key federal buildings are, that they next thing you would say was, “and return the rest to Maryland.” That would be the logical thing, the obvious thing. And it would totally take care of the big reason people keep raising as to why D.C. needs to be a state — the people who live there would have representation.

                  I don’t see why it’s a “terrible idea.” Its “identity,” now, is that it’s part of the federal district where the capital is. That would no longer be the case, so yeah, that identity would be gone. And I don’t see how it would be preserved by calling those neighborhoods a “state.”

                  Anyway, I thought you were going where my mind was going since the subject came up here. I keep thinking, why don’t we just make the real, operational, “capital” part of Washington the district (the Capitol, the White House, the Mall with the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, all the museums, and sweep from there on down to the river), and fold all the rest into the surrounding metropolis. I can’t imagine why THESE residential areas — once they’re not a part of the federal district — should be different from Kensington, Chevy Chase, Bethesda, etc. They’re all part of the same, sprawling metropolis.

                  Why divide a city that way? You’d have the new, truncated federal district with the government buildings, then a STATE in between that city center and the Maryland suburbs — why?

                  It would be like saying, let’s take the first few blocks of Brooklyn, right after you cross the river from Manhattan, and make them a separate state — but leave out the rest of Long Island.

                  I don’t follow the logic…

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    It seems especially illogical to me, because I’ve spent so many years looking at the crazy quilt of separate governments we have in the Columbia metro area. We have one natural, economic city, but something over 10 municipalities, two counties, seven school districts, plus a few special purpose districts thrown in just to make it crazier. It’s kind of hard to move forward as a community.

                    It’s also hard to hold local government accountable. As I’ve mentioned many times, I used to feel like the one place where we really let local voters down on endorsements was school board — the one place where we could have done the most to tell people about candidates they got NO other coverage of. But there were so many districts, and so many members, that it would have doubled our interview load every election. Since we were already squeezing 50 or 60 interviews in every time we had an election (with statewide, congressional, legislative, county and municipal, not to mention presidential primaries every four years), it just wasn’t possible.

                    To this day, I seldom vote in a school board election. I have a strict rule about not voting on things I’m not knowledgeable about, and that leaves out school board.

                    But I digress. The point is, we don’t need a capital city, the Maryland suburbs a few miles away, and a separate state — a tiny, bizarre separate state unlike any of the other 50 — jammed in between them. That just makes no kind of sense — does it? I mean, tell me why that would be logical…

                    1. Bryan Caskey

                      “I mean, tell me why that would be logical…”

                      It’s perfectly logical if you want to do so for partisan reasons. Maybe we could make Chicago and Los Angeles their own little states, too. Then maybe Austin, Atlanta, and other metropolitan areas. Changing the rules of the game is easier than trying to win under the existing rules. Trying to win under the existing rules means having to *ick* persuade people and compromise. Why do that when you can just change the rules and stick it to the opposition?

                      It’s Calvinball.

                3. Ken

                  Size shouldn’t be a core issue.

                  In Germany, the cities of Hamburg and Bremen/Bremerhaven are both states.

                  In France, the city of Paris is a département, with a (voting) representative in the French National Assembly.

                  Good gracious, Liechtenstein is actually smaller than D.C. and it’s a country!

                  So, clearly, other jurisdictions manage to accommodate the citizens of small territories by providing them with representation.

                  The semi-(US)citizens of DC should be accorded the same privilege. And NOT by being forced to move to MD or some other state.

                4. randle

                  Regarding Bryan’s comments: The most recent bills before Congress calling for DC statehood, also call for the rapid repeal of the 23rd Amendment, since the only people who would be living in the new federal district would be the president and his relatives. They could vote absentee in their home states, as they are only temporary occupants of the White House anyway, and the ex-president has done this. Or the passage of statehood could render the 23rd Amendment moot, as it would no longer be applicable to the District, which had been effectively divested of any voters. Repeal is probably safer.
                  As for Maryland not liking a new state on its border, it has had DC on its border since always, and changing its government structure wouldn’t effect Maryland as far as I can see. It’s not like DC is going to put up toll booths.
                  Most Marylanders support making DC a state and widely oppose making DC a new county in Maryland. DC citizens overwhelmingly support statehood and do not support retrocession. When Alexandria applied for retrocession in1846, the approval of the people of Arlington County, the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Congress was required. DC retrocession would have to follow that precedent and get the the approval of the people of Maryland, the state of Maryland and the Congress which, as I noted, is unlikely to happen, as there is no support for it. And DC is unlikely to petition for it in the first place because its residents don’t want it.
                  It seems odd to suggest that people who are unhappy because they are living under an unjust system should all pack up and go somewhere else or just deal with it. If we did that, we would never have founded our own country. Should the suffragettes have moved to England or Germany in 1918 if they wanted to vote rather than fight for it here? How do we achieve any progress if we don’t work for it? DC has been working to have its right to representation, guaranteed by the Constitution, restored or recognized for more than 200 years. I would say they value the right.

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    “It seems odd to suggest that people who are unhappy because they are living under an unjust system should all pack up and go somewhere else or just deal with it.”

                    It’s not an unjust system.

                  2. Bryan Caskey

                    “The most recent bills before Congress calling for DC statehood, also call for the rapid repeal of the 23rd Amendment…”

                    To repeal the 23rd Amendment, you have to amend the Constitution.

                  3. Bryan Caskey

                    “It seems odd to suggest that people who are unhappy…should all pack up and go somewhere else…”

                    Does it? People vote with their feet all the time. They’ve done so throughout history. People leave places to go other places. Have you lived in the same house your entire life?

                  4. Brad Warthen Post author

                    Randle, please forgive me for not answering all your points, but focusing on one tiny thing. (I’ve really got to buckle down and do some paying work today.)

                    But let me mention the tiny thing: “making DC a new county in Maryland.”

                    Why on Earth would it be a new county? Wouldn’t it just become part of Montgomery County? Wouldn’t that be not only the easiest and most natural thing, but the thing that would be most advantageous to the people of the former D.C.? I say that not just because my family roots (the non-South Carolinian quarter) are in that county, but because it’s known as one with a lot of advantages. I remember watching “The Wire,” and hearing a school official — responding to someone’s unrealistic expectation of the Baltimore system having certain resources — saying something like, “What do you think this is? Montgomery County?”

                    Some people in Montgomery might not want that — just as there were West Germans who didn’t want to be rejoined with the East — but it seems like it would be fair and equitable, not to mention much simpler.

                    Part of this, I guess, is also a prejudice I’ve had against creating new governments, ever since doing the Power Failure project. For our entire history, rather than address fundamental structural problems with our system, the SC Legislature has just created new local governments as stopgaps — which is why we have at least 500 Special Purpose Districts, and a big reason why local government tends to be so dysfunctional…

                5. Barry

                  People that want to move from DC should do so.

                  That’s not a rational or good faith solution for 700,000+ people in DC.

                  Some could certainly move – probably anywhere in the world if they so desired. Others could not do so due to health problems, financial reasons, family reasons, job reasons, transportation issues, and other barriers.

                  It’s also an odd answer – uproot your life and move so you can enjoy your rights as a citizen and have representation in the government of your country.

                  The “it’s always been that way” reason I give my kids never works either.

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    “It’s also an odd answer – uproot your life and move so you can enjoy your rights as a citizen and have representation in the government of your country.”

                    Not a persuasive argument. Moving a few miles isn’t uprooting your life. We’re talking about moving across a river, not sailing across the Atlantic on a ship for three months to a new continent. Everyone in DC knew the situation when they got there. It’s not like this is some recent change. In balancing the equities of the citizens of DC demanding that a well-established system be redesigned in opposition to its fundamental purpose simply to accommodate their convenience, I come down on the side of the well-established system.

                    However, if this is such a desperate, important issue of the terrible disenfranchisement of the people of DC, then why the push for statehood? Which involves a much harder process? Why not retrocede the same land proposed for statehood to Maryland? That’s easier to do, doesn’t run afoul of the Constitution, and solves the issue. The reason no one advocating for statehood is in favor of this solution is because no one really cares about the people of DC’s voting rights. But, since the simple, rational option does not lend itself to political exploitation, we go twenty rounds in a disingenuous ploy that is nothing more than a power grab.

                    1. Brad Warthen Post author

                      “We’re talking about moving across a river, not sailing across the Atlantic on a ship for three months to a new continent.”

                      Now see, THOSE people were crazy — either that, or subjected to conditions in the Old Country far less tolerable than those of living in D.C.

                      As I’ve said before in reference to my genealogy obsession, every time I run across another ancestor who came here from England or wherever, I want to reach back and ask that person, Why did you do that? But there’s never any hint in the record. Well, hints maybe — but never a clear answer.

                      I just find it hard to imagine doing that myself.

                      Of course, you know what’s crazier than that? Already being in the New World, but deciding to head westward. I have no ancestors who moved westward. They all stayed on the East Coast.

                      I congratulate myself upon my good luck in that regard, because I think it accounts for my relative sanity. I mean, have you taken a look lately at the politics of Arizona?

                      Yeah, I know — a person whose family tree is three-fourths South Carolinian, talking about the insanity of other states.

                      Well, be kind and allow me this one little fantasy…

                    2. Brad Warthen Post author

                      Look! A blue-footed booby! I give you joy!

                      booby

                      Sorry. I just thought I’d see if I could distract y’all from this endless argument, without doing something hard like putting up a compelling new post…

                    3. Bryan Caskey

                      Quite lovely. Pass the word for the doctor….

                      News Items:

                      1. The White House is directing vaccines to pharmacies. Plus new study shows AstraZeneca vaccine slows transmission 67%.
                      2. Manchin will not support a party line vote to pass COVID bill through reconciliation.
                      3. Chicago Mayor vs. Teachers in standoff over going back to an in-person option. Possible lockout/strike looms.
                      4. My son’s little league team is looking pretty good in pre-season practices. :)

                6. randle

                  This discussion seems played out, but I’m up, it’s 5:30, and I am just going to add a couple of things and try and lull myself back to sleep. I can’t even figure out where to put them, so here.

                  Brad, you wrote:
                  Why on Earth would it be a new county? Wouldn’t it just become part of Montgomery County? Wouldn’t that be not only the easiest and most natural thing, but the thing that would be most advantageous to the people of the former D.C.? I say that not just because my family roots (the non-South Carolinian quarter) are in that county, but because it’s known as one with a lot of advantages
                  and
                  Yeah, I don’t think anyone needs to move. Just put those parts of Maryland back in Maryland. Done…

                  After I had previously written:

                  DC retrocession would have to follow that precedent and get the approval of the people of Maryland, the state of Maryland and the Congress which, as I noted, is unlikely to happen, as there is no support for it. And DC is unlikely to petition for it in the first place because its residents don’t want it.

                  And Bryan wrote later, after responding to the above post
                  LOL. You can’t even bring yourself to state the easy way? It’s retrocession into Maryland

                  Are we paying attention? Again, retrocession requires the consent of the parties involved. Neither want it, as numerous polls have indicated and officials from both entities have said repeatedly.

                7. randle

                  BTW, I was born and raised in Montgomery County. Still have family in those parts and keep up with the high school crowd. Great place to grow up – highest per capita income in the country then, but spread pretty evenly among all those capitas – very little income disparity and a willingness to spend some of it on schools, public amenities and infrastructure. Still wealthy now, but no longer No.1. Big income disparity between rich and poor, which has created problems. Adding 760,000 Washingtonians to the mix – with similar disparities in wealth would bring more problems, don’t you think? DC’s schools, high African-American poverty rate and a large homeless population are headaches Montgomery County doesn’t need or want.

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    “DC’s schools, high African-American poverty rate and a large homeless population are headaches Montgomery County doesn’t need or want.”

                    Uh, are you saying Montgomery County doesn’t want a bunch of….black people?

                8. randle

                  Not that you have to pay attention to my posts except, when you are responding to them, you should read them first.

                9. randle

                  Everyone in DC knew the situation when they got there.-Bryan
                  Not a persuasive argument. Moving a few miles isn’t uprooting your life –Bryan

                  News flash: Residents of DC didn’t just show up one day, suitcase in hand, and hunker down in Anacostia or Cleveland Park for a few years before moving on. You seem to think they’re like a tray of begonias from the Farmers Market, with no real roots or attachments. I am also familiar with Washington, as my grandmother lived and worked there for decades, my father worked there his entire career and I grew up right next to it (RIP, Senators). Washington is a distinctive place, with its own character, neighborhoods, and a look and feel developed over generations by the people who have called it home. If you’ve never lived in a big city, you might not understand what neighborhoods mean to people, but I’m surprised a South Carolinian doesn’t understand the importance of place.

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    I’m surprised you’re letting partisan politics overcome the better angels of your nature.

                10. randle

                  It’s not an unjust system–Bryan

                  A lot of people beg to differ. Here are a couple:

                  1803–Because of the “unrepublican” condition of the District, Congress considers retrocession of the District back to Maryland. Discussing the resolution in February, Rep. John Randolph, Jr. (VA- Democratic-Republican) declared “I could wish, indeed, to see the people within this District restored to their rights. This species of government is an experiment how far freemen can be reconciled to live without rights; an experiment dangerous to the liberties of these states.”
                  And this guy:
                  1818– In December, President James Monroe in his second annual message to Congress states: “As [Congress’ exclusive power over the District] is a departure, for a special purpose, from the general principles of our system, it might merit consideration whether an arrangement better adapted to the principles of our government and to the particular interests of the people may not be devised which would neither infringe the Constitution nor affect the object which the provision in question was meant to secure.”
                  Then there’s Sen. John Tyler Morgan former Confederate soldier explaining why DC’s government had to change, for maybe the 10th time, after African-Americans got the vote in 1867 and began holding office:
                  He said Congress had “to burn down the barn to get rid of the rats…the rats being the negro population and the barn being the government of the District of Columbia.” He expounded further on this policy in 1890 saying, after “the negroes came into this district,” it became necessary to “deny the right of suffrage entirely to every human being.”

                  Now that’s justice.

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    Seems odd that I’m the only one who advocates letting these people vote through a method that actually has a chance to succeed.

                11. randle

                  In balancing the equities of the citizens of DC demanding that a well-established system be redesigned in opposition to its fundamental purpose simply to accommodate their convenience, I come down on the side of the well-established system–Bryan

                  Please check out this timeline and Washington’s history regarding that “well-established system.” The only thing consistent about DC’s government is its changing form over 221 years. There is no “well-established system.”
                  https://dcstatehoodyeswecan.org/j/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=98:timeline-dcs-quest-to-regain-its-democratic-rights&catid=46:statehood&Itemid=56

                  Also, it’s kind of a failed system, when you consider that it was created in response to the Philadelphia Mutiny. Being a federal district didn’t protect the Capitol during the insurrection; it left it more vulnerable because the DC government didn’t have the authority to call the troops in.
                  https://constitutioncenter.org/blog/how-philly-lost-the-nations-capital-to-washington

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    DC screwing up their own security n one instance doesn’t mean the federal district is a bad idea. I blame certain people for that, not the system.

                12. Barry

                  “H.R. 51, passed in the U.S. House on June 26, 2020, maintains the district as required by the Constitution, it just reduces the area. It is not the first time it has been reduced. In 1846, land was receded back to Virginia, reducing the district’s size. The Constitution does not call for a minimum size for the federal district, but sets a maximum “not exceeding ten miles square.” As to influence and control, can’t the same arguments be made now about Maryland and Virginia that border the nation’s capital? I do not recall either state taking over our country.”

                  “Every state added to the Union after the original 13 has been done the same way D.C. would. Article IV, Section 3 of the United States Constitution allows for the admission of new states by an act of Congress. There would still be a federally controlled district as required by the Constitution.”

                  “It wasn’t until the year 1801 people living D.C. were no longer considered citizens of either Maryland or Virginia and lost their representation. In 1788, Alexander Hamilton was concerned about the disenfranchisement of the people and proposed an amendment that would give voting rights and representation back to D.C. when the district reached a certain size, but it was defeated. In 1800, there were only 8,144 people living in Washington, D.C., and today there are over 700,000. ”

                  https://iowacapitaldispatch.com/2020/07/11/fishing-out-the-truth-behind-10-arguments-against-d-c-statehood/

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    “In 1788, Alexander Hamilton was concerned about the disenfranchisement of the people and proposed an amendment that would give voting rights and representation back to D.C. when the district reached a certain size, but it was defeated.”

                    Well there you have it. That’s evidence the framers considered giving voting rights to people in DC, then rejected the idea. That’s actually evidence against doing anything different. They already thought about it and decided not to. It’s not like they never considered it.

            2. bud

              And by the way you said – “The United States IS” not are. Right we are one nation with 340 million very mobile people. Our federal government should reflect that.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                Well, you’ve got me there!

                Sorry, speaking of the country in the singular is a habit we picked up in 1865. You’re too young to remember… :)

                Of course, I’m sure I had ancestors who would have insisted on using the plural. Fortunately, they lost the war. But going from “are” to “is” doesn’t change the Constitution upon which the nation is built. You need amendments for that. Thank God we have the 13th, 14th and 15th, which undid the bad parts of what those ancestors tried to preserve…

            3. Barry

              How is DC neutral?

              How would granting it statehood change it’s “neutrality?”

              At what point do the rights of 700,00+ American citizens become important enough to have representation in Congress?

              1. Bryan Caskey

                At what point do the rights of 700,00+ American citizens become important enough to have representation in Congress?

                Whenever everyone gets around to amending the Constitution. Otherwise I guess the folks in DC could move if they really felt oppressed or just, ya know, felt like it.

                1. bud

                  Bull! People should move in order to have congressional representation? Talk about Federalism crap run amok. Not sure a constitutional amendment is needed. Just change the boundaries of the district to include a tiny federal area then let the remainder apply for statehood. That’s how West Virginia became a state. Bryan/Brad why are you so comfortable denying 700000 people representation? Isn’t that what we fought a war over in 1776?

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    Lol. You never answered why Maryland can’t just get the land back.

                    It’s because you don’t actually care about the people or their “reprehensible disenfranchisement”. You want DC to be a state for purely partisan reasons.

                    It’s perfectly transparent.

                2. bud

                  Maybe Maryland doesn’t want the land back. Maybe DC residents don’t want to be part of Maryland. Let’s have a plebiscite and let actual people decide.

                3. Barry

                  I’ll ask again

                  How is DC neutral?

                  How would granting it statehood change it’s “neutrality?”

                  At what point do the rights of 700,00+ American citizens become important enough to have representation in Congress?

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    “How is DC neutral?”

                    Becuase it’s not a state. It’s not dependent on any state for anything.

                    “How would granting it statehood change it’s “neutrality?””

                    It would be a state.


                    “At what point do the rights of 700,00+ American citizens become important enough to have representation in Congress?”

                    First, you may have noticed this, but Congress doesn’t really do much anymore, so it’s not like they’re missing much. :) Kidding, kidding. Eh, it’s always been set up that way. Everyone who lives in DC has known the deal, and they have decided, for different reasons, each their own, to reside in DC. I’m sure one reason people live there is because it’s one of the most wealthy regions of our country since there are lots of good government jobs. Or maybe they like living in our nation’s capital. Who knows?

                    But hey, if you really want DC to be a state (and not just retrocede land back to Maryland) get out there and campaign for it. Go write letters to congress and state legislators to urge them to amend the US Constitution. Go for it!

                4. Barry

                  “You want DC to be a state for purely partisan reasons.”

                  That’s a big factor for me- yes. But the questions remain as I stated.

                  Just as you don’t want it to have representation for purely partisan reasons.

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    “Just as you don’t want it to have representation for purely partisan reasons.”

                    Nonsense. I’m in favor of keeping the district a federal district as it has been since it was established in the Constitution. Since then, we’ve had lots of different political parties come and go.

                5. Barry

                  “Becuase it’s not a state. It’s not dependent on any state for anything.”

                  What does this even mean? We know they aren’t a state. But they are dependent- dependent on the federal government- just like South Carolina and number of other states. Just look at their budget and were they get their money .

                  I realize the “conservative” position means folks have to be against DC being a state. I get it. But the reasons always seem to be a little- umm- suspect.

                  “But hey, if you really want DC to be a state get out there and campaign for it. Go write letters to congress and state legislators to urge them to amend the US Constitution. Go for it!”

                  Been there- and done that- many times.

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    “But they are dependent- dependent on the federal government- just like South Carolina and number of other states. Just look at their budget and were they get their money.”

                    A federal district is dependent on the federal government? Yeah…that’s the point, right? I think the opposite would be the seat of federal government beholden to a state to manage it.

                6. Barry

                  “I’m in favor of keeping the district a federal district as it has been since it was established in the Constitution.”

                  What are the reasons you want to keep it as a “federal district?”

                  Because it’s always been that way is not a convincing reason for much of anything- especially the future of a city that will eventually have 1+ million citizens.

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    “What are the reasons you want to keep it as a “federal district?””

                    I think it’s a rather elegant solution to having a seat of federal government in a country formed by separate, sovereign states.

                7. Ken

                  You people are really funny. Less than a month ago, people from practically every state in the Union, EXCEPT DC, ransacked the Capitol and disrupted the functioning of national government. Yet you folks are concerned that a State of DC would pose some sort of threat to the federal government.

                  Is that because it’s known as the “chocolate city”?

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    I’m not concerned about a “threat to the federal government” from DC being a state. I just think it’s a silly idea being pursued for purely partisan ends.

                    But hey: you do you, Ken.

                8. but

                  I think it’s a rather elegant solution to having a seat of federal government in a country formed by separate, sovereign states.
                  -Bryan

                  You are really hung up on this non-sequitor notion of state sovereignty. That is a concept that I don’t find useful. Perhaps at one time that was a bonafide construct but honestly does it even mean anything in 2021? Of course it doesn’t. But as long as we still cling to this obsolete and increasingly unworkable arrangement let’s make the most of it and create a new state that partially addresses the inequity of the senate. At the same time we solve a major disenfranchisement travesty. Is this a perfect solution? Hardly. But let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the better.

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    “You are really hung up on this non-sequitur notion of state sovereignty. That is a concept that I don’t find useful.”

                    It [state sovereignty] one of the fundamental principles of our country. It’s embedded in our history. It’s not something you can just throw out. It’s also a wonderful thing.

                    For instance, it’s why different states have different laws. People in California can decide they want to have a different policy on guns than in, say, Georgia. People in Florida can decide they don’t want to pay a state income tax. All the states and their different laws create what Justice Brandeis called “the laboratories of democracy”. So if you don’t like the heavy regulations in California, you can move your business to Texas. Or if you don’t like the policies in Mississippi, you can move to Minnesota. Each state pursuing the wishes of its citizens gives more freedom and liberty to the people of the United States to have governments that reflect the will of the people on issues that matter to them at a local level.

                    So, I would caution you against saying you don’t find it useful. It’s more than useful. It’s fundamental to the country. It’s why states run elections, and we don’t have one big national vote. In some ways we are fifty states, and in other ways we are one country.

                    DC not being a state isn’t a problem. It’s just not. They get a vote for President, and they can vote for their mayor. If they really feel strongly about wanting a Senator, they can move across the Potomac.

                    1. Brad Warthen Post author

                      Yeah, I don’t see how statehood is a “non-sequitur notion” when that is the status that we’re talking about conferring upon the only part of our country that is not in a state.

                      I mean, aren’t we talking about a status that is to some extent desired, and deserves to be respected?…

                9. Ken

                  “I’m not concerned about a ‘threat to the federal government’ from DC being a state.” – BC

                  Then you really don’t have any arguments, other than: It’s always been this way and that’s how it should stay.

                10. Barry

                  “ I think it’s a rather elegant solution to having a seat of federal government in a country formed by separate, sovereign states.”

                  What problem/issue is preventing it from being a state solving?

                  What is silly about a city with 700,00+ citizens having representation in Congress without having to move somewhere else (which seems like a silly suggestion)

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    It’s silly because Maryland gave the land to the federal government to be a federal district.

                    If the federal government doesn’t want it then it’s Maryland. The district was never intended to be a state.

                    If someone in DC doesn’t like the system that has been in place since the beginning of the country, they can move. It’s silly, however, to demand that a well-established system be redesigned in opposition to its fundamental purpose simply to accommodate their convenience.

                11. Barry

                  “ Having the capital of the federal government in a particular state.”

                  Going to try again.

                  What actual problem is that’s solving though?

                  If Maryland wants to take DC back with 700,000 plus citizens and the enjoy the require representatives that would bring them, I’d accept that. But I’d leave that up to Maryland to decide as well as DC citizens.

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    It keeps all states on equal footing with one another and not to give any one of them undue power and influence.

                    The current system makes it where the seat of the federal government is not beholden to a state.

                12. Barry

                  “ The current system makes it where the seat of the federal government is not beholden to a state.”

                  How does having it in its current location give DC undue influence?

                  Surely a rock solid agreement could be put into law that would prevent this supposed undue influence from DC (on the body that is drunk beyond all reason from undue influence now).

                  How about this.: DC And it’s 700,00+ citizens enjoy the benefits of statehood and the Capitol building, House and Senate offices, Supreme Court, and White House retain a “stateless” district distinction within the law so they aren’t somehow unduly influenced.

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    “How does having it in its current location give DC undue influence?”

                    The undue influence comes in when the seat of the federal government is in a state.

                    How about this: DC and its 700,000 citizens already enjoy the rights and privileges of being Americans, and if they actually want to live in a state, and not a federal district that has existed for 200+ years, they are free to move across the river and leave the federal district. It’s not like we’re asking someone to get on a ship and cross the Atlantic ocean on a three month journey.

                    It’s like someone in Hawaii saying: I hate this island I live on. I wish it was part of the mainland. Let’s fill in the ocean to connect Hawaii to the mainland.

                13. Barry

                  “The undue influence comes in when the seat of the federal government is in a state.”

                  Going to try for the 4th or 5th time

                  What “undue” influence? What are you concerned about regarding their “undue” influence?

                  I realize you hate the idea of a state will increase democrat representation in Congress. That’s a given. Let’s set that aside.

                  No, it’s not at all like a citizen of the state of Hawaii wanting the ocean “filled in.

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    Is this fun, or what? :)

                    “What “undue” influence? What are you concerned about regarding their “undue” influence?”

                    In setting up the federal district as a separate dominion, the idea is to have the everyday needs of utilities, roads, traffic, and safety to be independent of any state for two reasons:

                    1. So that a state couldn’t blackmail the federal government into something by interfering with those essential resources; and,
                    2. So the federal government wouldn’t feel as though it owed the host state anything for providing those resources.

                    Accordingly, in order to preserve its impartiality and independence from the states, and ensure that it was immune to underhand tactics, the federal government made its home in a district that would be under its own exclusive authority. The federal government would be on its own property, take care of itself, and maintain its independence from state governments. The exclusive control that the federal government has been given over D.C. helps ensure that only it could control its home and that it would be subject to no state action.

                    “I realize you hate the idea of a state will increase democrat representation in Congress. That’s a given. Let’s set that aside”

                    Nonsense. Not at all. I couldn’t care less about the politics. The Senate has gone back and forth, controlled by both parties over the last 200+ years. Adding an area that was never intended to be a state is the issue.

                14. Barry

                  “1. So that a state couldn’t blackmail the federal government into something by interfering with those essential resources; and,
                  2. So the federal government wouldn’t feel as though it owed the host state anything for providing those resources.”

                  Ok. Thank you.

                  What are the chances that a state cuts off or impacts the basic utilities use for the Capitol building or White House?

                  Wouldn’t any such attempt, however unlikely, immediately be remedied by court action?

                  Columbia is home to the state house. The City of Columbia is led by Democratic leadership and has been for decades. RIchland County is led by Democratic leadership and has been for decades.

                  I am not aware of attempts to cause harm to the Republican led state house by means of interfering with basic services. I assume it could happen. Of course the odds of Lake Norman flooding downtown Columbia are likely quite similar.

                  Therefore we are back to one possible remedy – make the Capitol Grounds Complex, the White House, the Senate and House Office buildings their own district- not to include 700,000 citizens living in DC.

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    “Therefore we are back to one possible remedy – make the Capitol Grounds Complex, the White House, the Senate and House Office buildings their own district- not to include 700,000 citizens living in DC.”

                    No, there’s another remedy you’re refusing to consider because you can’t get any political gain out of it.

                15. Barry

                  “No, there’s another remedy you’re refusing to consider because you can’t get any political gain out of it.”

                  it’s not a reasonable remedy to ask 700,000 citizens to move to Maryland.

                  I know it’s nice to assume everyone can sell their home, contact a real estate agent in Maryland, and purchase a home there. But reality is different.

                  and no, because the capitol hill and the white house could theoretically have some made up issue with the State of DC preventing them from getting electricity is not a good reason to prevent them from becoming a state.

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    “it’s not a reasonable remedy to ask 700,000 citizens to move to Maryland.”

                    LOL. You can’t even bring yourself to state the easy way? It’s retrocession into Maryland.

                16. Barry

                  Maryland isn’t interested. DC isn’t either.

                  It seems, at least from my point of view, that a solution to such an issue requires at least 1 side to be interested in the solution. In this case, that’s a dead end.

                  “The area that includes the modern city has existed independently of Maryland since 1790, has a distinct identity, and just approved—by nearly 80% of voters—a referendum to urge the city to pursue statehood. We should acknowledge the principle of self-determination…Otherwise, I’m happy to see Vermont and Wyoming to consolidate with nearby states for lack of residents.”

                  Touché!

                  https://ggwash.org/view/62321/topic-of-the-week-eeeeverybodys-got-an-opinion-about-retrocession

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    “Maryland isn’t interested. DC isn’t either.”

                    Once Maryland and DC hit the dead end of trying to form statehood without a constitutional amendment, they’ll drop the issue.

                17. Ken

                  Better than that: who really needs two Carolinas, when one would do just fine?
                  Same with the Dakota duplication. I mean, really, why??
                  Think of all the government functions that could be cut!
                  Sounds like a real winner for conservatives!

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    Not really following you on the Carolinas thing. They were separate states before there was a union, among the 13 who formed the U.S. and agreed to the Constitution.

                    But I was actually thinking a similar thing about the Dakotas, just recently. The nation existed long before they were even territories. So why did they enter as separate states? I suppose there’s a reason; I just don’t know what it is.

                    If they’d entered as one, Donnatella Moss wouldn’t have had to go up there and listen to the North Dakotans whining about their name. There’d be just one Dakota, and there’d still hardly be anybody living there.

                    Although what any of it has to do with the idea of turning D.C. into a state, I don’t know….

                    1. Brad Warthen Post author

                      Although, looking back at that list Bryan posted the other day, I see North Dakota has more people than Bernie Sanders’ state. Maybe, if we’re going to squish together states that originally formed the U.S. (in this case, with a slightly later one), it should be merged with New Hampshire. I never can remember which one’s which when I look at an unmarked map anyway.

                      It’s not more than Alaska, too, big as it is.

                      You know, looking back at past decisions to add states, I’m still not sure Alaska was such a great idea. Although once Hawaii was added, it made for a nice, round number…

                    2. Brad Warthen Post author

                      Actually, isn’t it kind of weird that Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island are separate states? Seems like if there’s no room to print the name of your state over its territory on a small map — instead of the name being stuck out in the Atlantic somewhere — you’re not big enough to be a state.

                      But since all of those are original states, except for Vermont, maybe we should cut them some slack…

                18. bud

                  Once Maryland and DC hit the dead end of trying to form statehood without a constitutional amendment, they’ll drop the issue.
                  -Bryan

                  You may not realize it yet but that statement effectively means you’ve lost the argument. Whether this is actually politically doable or not is beside the point. The point is to decide what is the right thing to do. Apparently you’ve decided not to continue fighting a losing battle.

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    It’s the wrong thing to do. I haven’t conceded anything.

                    Your silly proposal is:

                    1. not practical
                    2. a bad idea
                    3. in bad faith
                    4. also not gonna happen anyway.

                  2. Bryan Caskey

                    Whether this is actually politically doable or not is beside the point.”

                    If you don’t at least consider whether something is possible, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.

                19. Ken

                  “Not really following you on the Carolinas thing.” – BW

                  It’s not hard to follow. It’s my silly suggestion for a silly argument: If DC is to be merged into MD, then we might as well merge a few other jurisdictions as well, as a way to cut government and save money by eliminating duplication.

                  Me, I don’t give a fiddler’s fart how DC gets representation: as a new Md county or as a state. But like I pointed out before, there are numerous examples of tiny states, even tiny countries that are doing just fine, thank you very much. And there are also seats of national government located inside other jurisdictions. The German federal government, for example, is situated in the state of Berlin, without having to carve out any kind of separate federal enclave. Nobody’s complaining – or worried.

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    Give it up, Ken. It’s an impractical idea made in bad faith that also isn’t gonna happen.

                20. Barry

                  Oh, DC statehood will eventually happen . It might be another 30-50 years but it will occur.

                  It’s just a matter of time- and I don’t mean 300 years.

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    I have enough faith in the American people that we won’t do something so purely partisan and destroy a norm that has been here since the founding.

                21. Barry

                  “The German federal government, for example, is situated in the state of Berlin, without having to carve out any kind of separate federal enclave. Nobody’s complaining – or worried.”

                  The argument that DC being a state will bring too much undue influence to capitol hill is so silly it’s hard to capture in words.

                  There are 100 ways to limit the ever present “undue” influence on capitol hill that exists now. No one is interested – not politicians- not voters. Preventing DC statehood is not on that list.

                  After all, we are talking about a body that encourages, stresses, promotes, and rewards undue influence constantly- as a matter of unwritten and written law.

                  I especially enjoy the politicians that proclaim the awful “undue influence” DC could play at the same time as their accepting freebies from industry lobbyists such as riding on their private planes to vacation destinations.

                  and just think of all that “undue influence” Columbia has with the state capitol in the middle of main street. The utilities have never been cut off. The capitol building functions. Legislators certainly seem to have no trouble functioning in the Democratic stronghold of Columbia.

                  So much is the “undue influence” that Charleston has surpassed Columbia as the biggest city in the state, and Greenville has long surpassed Columbia as the business hub of the state.

                22. Ken

                  “Give it up, Ken. It’s an impractical idea made in bad faith….”

                  No, YOU give it up. Especially the bad faith on your part. Or is it simply incoherence? One minute you say “I’m not concerned about a threat to the federal government from DC as a state,” but almost immediately throw out scenarios in which DC could “blackmail” (your word) the federal govt in order to get something it wants. I’m surprised that a practicing attorney fails to appreciate that blackmailing is a form of threatening. But more importantly, as I’ve pointed out twice now, there are numerous places around the world where your nightmare scenario is their everyday reality. But you haven’t produced any evidence showing how what you fear from a prospective State of DC is borne out by those examples. Plus, on top of that, when others disagree with you, your response is to dismiss them as ignorant (“I can explain it to you, but other than that, I can’t understand it for you.”) Frankly, I hear very little thought in your “thinking” about this, merely a deal of dogma.

                  More broadly, whether it’s voter suppression or keeping the people of DC without a voice in Congress, folks on your end of the political spectrum sure do have a problem with citizens having a say.

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    Ken, you’re advocating something that won’t work (and avoiding a solution that solves the alleged problem). You are using the people of DC as a pawn to change the rules of the game because you want to gain a partisan advantage in politics.

                  2. Bryan Caskey

                    “Frankly, I hear very little thought in your “thinking” about this, merely a deal of dogma”

                    It’s because you don’t appreciate the other side of an argument. What do you do for a living? You don’t seem to have much experience with conflicting opinions.

                23. Ken

                  In short: You would hold the people of DC hostage to a theory.

                  Which, just by the by, is what conservatives have always claimed left-wingers do.

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    Ken, advocacy for DC statehood won’t do anything to help the people of DC. But that’s not really your concern, is it?

                24. Barry

                  “You are confused between state and federal government.”

                  Nah, I I’m confused about quite a few things, but not the difference between the state and federal government.

                  I am confused about how DC being a state would be undue influence on Capitol Hill. That’s because it’s ridiculous.

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    “I am confused about how DC being a state would be undue influence on Capitol Hill.”

                    It’s because one government would be beholden to another government for basic needs.

                25. Ken

                  “It’s because you don’t appreciate the other side of an argument.”

                  Once again, as in so many other occasions on this blog, rather than address critiques of your assertions, you duck and dive, insult and dismiss. Those who disagree with you are either incapable of understanding your (in your opinion) superior reasoning or intellectually incapacitated by political bias. Rather than address arguments you engage in ad hominem attacks. And yet you’re never taken to task for that by this blog’s supposed manager.

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    “Once again, as in so many other occasions on this blog, rather than address critiques of your assertions, you duck and dive, insult and dismiss.”

                    No, I’ve gone to great lengths to explain the position. On the other hand, you’re the person who likes to tell people to “Stop spewing garbage” when it’s an opinion you don’t agree with. :)

                26. Ken

                  And rather than accept that your interlocutors can engage honestly and on the merits, you dismiss them as politically motivated. Perhaps because you’re so driven by your own political biases that you can’t imagine anyone else operating differently.

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    “Perhaps because you’re so driven by your own political biases that you can’t imagine anyone else operating differently.”

                    Not at all. You’re the one who wants to change the rules of the game to get two more senators from a place that was never designed to be a state. You want this because you are giving up on trying to get senators elected in existing states. Changing the rules to suit your ends is the bad faith part. I’m just advocating for keeping the rules the same that they’ve always been. I’m even offering suggestions to solve your alleged problem, but the alleged problem is just a stalking horse – you’re not interested in anything that doesn’t end up with two new senators. :)

                  2. Brad Warthen Post author

                    Oh, come now, Ken.

                    Here we have a topic that has been out there for many, many years, commanding little attention or passion outside the District itself, and now — with the Senate at 50-50 — suddenly everyone’s SO intent on the subject. Y’all have been going on and on and on about it, in a manner indicating it is of the highest importance, and no one who disagrees with you could possibly have any merit in his arguments…

                    And you’re saying this isn’t about partisan politics?…

                    1. Ken

                      Nope, not for me. Like I said elsewhere, the politics of it didn’t enter my mind when I first came on this thread. It didn’t crop up until BC made it an issue. So, obviously, it’s a major issue for him. Not for me.

                      So you can take your Oh, come on someplace else.

                    2. Brad Warthen Post author

                      No, I’ll keep it right here, this being my blog and all.

                      But I’ll take your word for it, although it’s surprising that we’ve had such a discussion about something that usually generates so little excitement.

                      I guess we just all get overworked about almost anything these days. Or something…

                27. Ken

                  “You want this because you are giving up on trying to get senators elected in existing states.”
                  Actually, that hadn’t crossed my mind – until you brought it up. Because, unlike you, for whom electoral advantage is always foremost in mind, my concern was with the thousands of DC voters who are not represented by voting members of Congress. And Montgomery County, where I lived for 6 years, is no more eager to absorb DC than it is to merge with PG County. So you’re the one being unrealistic on that score.

                  And as for “spouting garbage,” I stand by that comment. When someone says that there’s “no science” that supports school closures or that “no science” supports limiting church attendance in a time of pandemic they are spouting tendentious garbage that’s a threat to public understanding and therefore to public health.

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    “Actually, that hadn’t crossed my mind – until you brought it up.”

                    Then you’re either:

                    1. Being disingenuous;
                    2. Not aware that states get senators in the federal legislature; or
                    3. Being used as a pawn by others who are doing this solely for political gain.

                    My guess is it’s number 1.

                    “And as for “spouting garbage,” I stand by that comment.”

                    I wouldn’t expect anything less from ya. :)

                    1. Brad Warthen Post author

                      Whoa, OK, that’s it guys.

                      Show’s over. To the extent I can find the time to keep checking in and deleting subsequent comments, the discussion has ended.

                      Actually, you know what? I think I’ll just turn off comments on this post. We’ll see if that works. 170 is enough, don’t you think?

                      Let’s move on to another subject….

                  2. Bryan Caskey

                    “When someone says that there’s “no science” that supports school closures or that “no science” supports limiting church attendance in a time of pandemic…”

                    No, that’s not what I said at all. First, you’re inserting something about limiting church attendance that I never said. The discussion was about schools, and I never said anything (good, bad, or indifferent) about churches in that statement. So don’t make up a fake quote.

                    Again, the point is there is no science that supports one school district being completely closed and the adjacent school district being completely open. The data a/k/a “the science” can’t support both conclusions. They are opposite conclusions from the same data.

                    Does that make sense now? :)

                    1. Ken

                      In addition to everything else, you apparently don’t have much of a memory. You made the argument in the NY City church case that there was no science that supporting restricting church attendance.

                    2. Bryan Caskey

                      That was on a whole other thread and discussion. On the NY Church issue, I confined my arguments to legal ones. It wasn’t an issue of science; it was legal.

                      You’re incorrectly conflating the two issues.

                  3. Bryan Caskey

                    Ken! Did you see this?

                    “There is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen,” she said, adding that “safe reopening does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated in order to reopen safely.”

                    From the CDC:

                    1. Brad Warthen Post author

                      Not to egg y’all on or anything, but there’s this:

                28. Barry

                  “It’s because one government would be beholden to another government for basic needs.”

                  I get that folks argue such a thing.

                  I find that reasoning absurd- that a sticking point is where they’d get their electricity and water?

                  There is NO evidence that statehood would prevent the capitol from obtaining basic services from a state. If that was a real issue, agreements could be written into law to solve such an unlikely issue.

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    “I find that reasoning absurd…”

                    I know. But there’s a lot of folks who don’t. It’s not just me. :)

          2. Bryan Caskey

            “Bryan, we kind of talk past each other on this because we view the “constituencies” very differently.”

            Do we? I don’t even know what that means, so I have no idea if we disagree or not. :)

            “But to your point the people within states don’t wish to give up power so a constitutional amendment is a non starter.”

            Exactly. Also, if you look at that list of states with small populations, it’s a relatively even mix of red and blue states, so there’s an argument it balances out in our current political landscape. (I count five solidly “red” states: Wyoming, Alaska, N. Dakota, S. Dakota, Montana).

          3. Bryan Caskey

            “But damn it just seems so unfair to millions of Americans who just want a functional federal government.”

            When you say “functional federal government” what exactly do you mean? If it’s basically just policies that you want the federal government to enact (but aren’t getting enacted) then the correct solution is to persuade more people to your side. That’s hard, but that’s the deal.

            1. bud

              No, it’s not about agreeing with me. It’s about a the minority effectively having veto power over the majority. That is disfunctional. Heck in spite of federalism, a setup I find obsolete, we ended up with a Democrat as POTUS. But Biden is far from my choice. So be it. But with a tiny shift of just 45000 votes the majority would be thwarted yet again. The same thing applies in the senate. Cherry picking 11 tiny states misses the point. Granting DC statehood is a long overdue partial remedy for this major problem.

              1. Bryan Caskey

                “Cherry picking 11 tiny states misses the point.”

                Come now. I didn’t “cherry pick” anything. I listed the least populous states in ascending order of population under 1.5M

                1. bud

                  Adding an area that was never intended to be a state is the issue.
                  – Bryan

                  This a great opportunity to clarify things. To Bryan that sentence makes sense. He sees that as a bonafide argument. To me it is utterly without any meaning at all. Who are these chosen powers doing the “intending”? Whoever they were they carry no weight today. The issue is crystal clear. There is just no reasonable argument in a nation that values inclusion and fairness. Since MD does not want them DC MUST be granted statehood. Starting today that’s what we should intend to do.

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    “To me it is utterly without any meaning at all.”

                    That’s probably true. I can explain it to you, but other than that, I can’t understand it for you. That’s up to you.

                  2. Bryan Caskey

                    “Since MD does not want them DC MUST be granted statehood. Starting today that’s what we should intend to do.”

                2. Barry

                  “This a great opportunity to clarify things. To Bryan that sentence makes sense. He sees that as a bonafide argument. To me it is utterly without any meaning at all. Who are these chosen powers doing the “intending”? Whoever they were they carry no weight today. The issue is crystal clear. ”

                  Things change. Some 40 years ago the idea of carrying a phone around 24/7 was not only ludicrous, even suggesting the idea would have caused people think you belong in a hospital.

                  But again, things change.

                  Eventually, DC will become a state. The arguments against it like “undue influence” are patently absurd. That’s just a partisan argument from people that don’t have a better argument.

                  But again, it will take time. and as DC continues to grow, it will become reality. But chances are it will be decades in the future.

            2. randle

              “When you say “functional federal government” what exactly do you mean? If it’s basically just policies that you want the federal government to enact (but aren’t getting enacted) then the correct solution is to persuade more people to your side. That’s hard, but that’s the deal.”

              If that doesn’t work out:
              Your state legislature could gerrymander congressional districts so that your party has a better chance of winning those races because you don’t think you can win based on your policies.

              Or you could engage in voter suppression or disenfranchisement tactics

              Or you could use an arcane and undemocratic electoral system that can award the presidency to the candidate who doesn’t win the popular vote. Take for instance, the United States, where the Democrats have won the popular vote in 7 out of the last 8 elections, but lost the presidency 2 of those 7 times in spite of that.

              Or you could invent conspiracy theories and try to discredit an election in the months before it takes place because you know that the majority of the country does not support your policies, as demonstrated by the fact that the majority of the country consistently votes for senators, congress members and the president of the other party

              Or you can try to overturn the election results by bringing meritless lawsuits alleging fraud, attempting to get legally cast ballots thrown out, trying to shake down state officials and, if all else fails stage a coup in the Capitol while the election results are being certified.

              1. Barry

                “Or you could engage in voter suppression or disenfranchisement tactics”

                A lot of conservatives are trying real hard right now to suppress minority votes.

                Have you seen some of the proposed bills in various Republican legislatures?

                “The things they had in there were crazy. They had things, levels of voting that if you’d ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again,” – Donald Trump March 2020

                “I don’t want everybody to vote,” Paul Weyrich, an influential conservative activist, said in 1980. “As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

        2. Mark Stewart

          Bryan,

          Yeah, the only viable option is if the largest states want to split themselves up. There is no way to regroup the little/little people states.

          I thought Cali might actually take a run at being two or three states. It would make some sense (though split north/south would make the most sense). But, like Texas, they are a republic – so I don’t see either solving their own representation. problem. Florida and New York should, too, but won’t for other reasons. But it is staggering how little the Senate actually represents Americans and yet has so much power. I think the Founders would have revised their Constitution were they to have had the foresight. Within a decade or so more than 1/3 of the country’s population will be underrepresented in the Senate. That is a existential question that could become a firestorm. We should as a nation give the situation serious consideration.

      2. Barry

        ” I know that the Senate represents sovereign states; but this situation is growing dangerous when the whims of the small states have such consequential impacts upon the entire nation – especially with such a massive block of unrepresented people”

        I agree- and it’s a real problem that is going to get worse.

        If the GOP keeps being infiltrated by conspiracy theory promoters, it will hasten an eventual reckoning of some type in the country.

        1. Barry

          It’s been interesting.

          I’ve sampled some conservative radio and a little bit of FOX- as much as one can stand- which was about 15-20 minutes worth.

          Conservative radio has almost 100% ignored the conspiracy theory promotion. Local radio, national radio, satellite radio – they’ve mentioned it as a news story but oddly don’t have any commentary on it.

          They have commentary on Democrats who don’t pin their American flag pin on perfectly straight and how they aren’t “real Americans”. But oddly don’t have anything to say about a Republican who states 9/11 was an inside job, that school shootings are false flags, that the Sandy Hook parents were faking it and never had any children.

          I once had a conservative radio personality tell me that he had to be mindful of what his audience would accept – and that they wouldn’t accept him putting down conservatives. I asked how he felt about misleading them or not telling them the truth and that maybe he had something to do with creating such a situation where his audience wouldn’t accept the truth. He just said “it’s a business.”

          So are scams.

  7. bud

    For what it’s worth the “state sovereignty” argument carries zero weight with me. That is nothing more than another way of saying that’s how we’ve always done things. So far no one has made a meaningful argument as to why it’s a good thing to disenfranchise 700,000 Americans.

  8. James Edward Cross

    It’s tempting to say: It’s the Web!, It’s the algorithms! It’s the “nontraditional sources!” And that’s not to say they don’t play a role, especially in rapidly and widely disseminating misinformation.

    But let’s face it. For about 2/3 of this country’s history newspapers were in the service of political parties/views. The “traditional sources” did not operate according to procedures and ethics that required that facts actually check out before being reported. “Objectivity” in news reporting is a little over 100 years old. And even that is problematic, since complete objectivity is really a goal to be strived for but is rarely, if ever, achieved–something that both journalists and readers forget.

    There’s also the fact that there’s more news than any newspaper or the broadcast media can cover. So choices have to be made, and those choices can be biased. The situation is certainly better now than it was, but you can still tell “liberal” from “conservative” newspapers by more than just their editorials.

    So to some extent people have always lived in their reality. I’ve noticed that some recent books have posited that the United States has never been as “united” as we like to believe. There have always been class, racial, regional, rural/suburban/urban, etc. divides. Remember the Civil War?

    I think the one component missing from the analysis of how we got into this sorry state is that it’s not enough to go down the rabbit hole. After all, I’m sure that all of us have done that in pursuit of something of interest to us (genealogy, perhaps? :-) ) It’s that these rabbit holes strike an emotional resonance in people. It’s not just the ideas, it’s that they **feel** right to them. They want to believe this because it explains the world to them. And that tells us something about the perception of the US that folks who subscribe to these theories always had.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      It’s not about the content. All those years that newspapers served the Federalists, or the Democratic-Republicans, or whatever, people were still SANE in comparison to now.

      Something happened to people’s heads. Before 2016, no grossly incompetent, stunningly unfit person such as Trump — a guy who spent most of every day going out of his way to make himself contemptible — could possibly have been elected president. There was obviously something causing a profound cognitive disconnect.

      When Federalist papers were trashing Jefferson in 1800, there was no mechanism that said “like that? Here’s something more extreme…” over and over, until people started believing that the Jacobins or the Catholic Church were raining fire and brimstone on Philadelphia from the sky.

      But now we do. This is the thing that, more than anything else, explains why almost half the country will do things as voters that no significant number of people in our history would have dreamed of doing before.

      It’s not about the content. It’s about the mechanism, and how completely unprepared for it our brains are…

      1. Bob Amundson

        Glad you mentioned the Federalist Papers. Federalism requires balance, and as Bryan has stated in the past, your mileage may vary. Perspective matters, and thoughtful discussions like this help us irrational humans regress towards that mean (balance).

      2. James Edward Cross

        That’s an interesting stance, given your general insistence that “words matter.”

        And they do.

        I don’t think that Trump is an anomaly, thrown up be the Age of the Internet. At the state level there have been any number of incompetent, “crazy” people who have gained office. And there have been worries about figures on the national scene; Huey Long comes to mind. As you yourself have pointed out, If the old system of party bosses was still in play Trump would have never received the nomination. So likely it’s a combination of political factors and good fortune that we haven’t had a Trump before.

        History has shown that dictators have been able to overthrow democracies before using “democratic” methods and without the use of the Web. The “Big Lie” is always a popular tactic.

        I think it is dangerous to ignore the underlying problem here. which is not so much people going “down the rabbit hole” as it is the like what they find there because it’s emotionally satisfying to them. They desperately want it to be true because of all the political and cultural changes that have happened in the last 60 years. They fear losing power, or losing status. They long for the “good old days” when people knew their place. And what they find in those rabbit holes gives them someone to blame, be it liberals, the media, ethnic minorities, LGBTQIA, or someone or something else. Yes, the Web brings a different dimension to it, and the fight against these views have to take that into account.

        Voters are not–and have never been–rational actors. Division has been the status quo, in spite of the lull we had from around 1950-1964. The things that are coming to the fore have always been around, an ugly background that recently we have managed to suppress but has been bubbling under the surface. Democracy is fragile, and ours barely survived because the system just managed to work and we were blessed with someone who was vastly incompetent. Looking at some of the people who are trying to position themselves as heirs apparent to Trump I don’t think we will be that lucky again. It CAN happen here, and we are naive to think that it can’t.

        1. Ken

          Yes. The web served the market of half-baked ideas, gut feelings, grievances and ignorance, it didn’t create them. Similarly, the market for Trumpism pre-dated Trump. As one observer recently put it: “Trump didn’t create his people; his people created Trump.”

          1. Bryan Caskey

            “The web served the market of half-baked ideas, gut feelings, grievances and ignorance…”

            I couldn’t agree more. For instance, there are all these people who have this half-baked idea that DC should be a state.

    2. Bob Amundson

      It’s human nature, complicated by social media. Humans are irrational, with many biases (implicit, negative, historical, narrative, just to name a few). Social media amplified the ability to brainwash people, resulting in millions of our fellow citizens acting as if they belonged to a large, complex cult. We need a national intervention – not sure what that will look like!

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