Politics is always a matter of life or death. Those who tell you otherwise are selling something. Why does an average child in an affluent white California family have better lifetime earning prospects than a one-in-a-million genius born in Guatemala City? Politics. Why is a black kid 250% more likely to be killed by police than a white kid? Politics. Like an invisible tide flowing around you, the government you live under determines your life prospects.
Americans still describe the world in terms of a divide between capitalism and socialism that doesn’t exist, and probably hasn’t for almost a century. That fantasy narrative helps us escape from confronting problems that make us uncomfortable.
The difference between things Americans regard as essential government services, like highways, courts, sewers and fire departments, and the stuff we decide to call “socialism,” is manufactured in our perverse imaginations. Everywhere else in the world this habit is viewed with some combination of humor and horror.
In a society, degradation feeds degradation. If you let a corner of your culture descend into hopeless poverty, their condition will spread like a cancer and metastasize in ways you cannot anticipate. Allowed to fester, containing their rot will become a constant, threatening menace.
Oh, and “you didn’t build that.”
A resident of Wyoming has 3 times more electoral power than that same person would have if they moved to Los Angeles. Of the 15 states with the most lopsided electoral power, only two (Delaware & Rhode Island) are more than 4% black. Extend that analysis down the precinct level, calculating state and local political influence along with federal races, and you find a system comically rigged to suppress democratic influence.
About 40% of eligible Americans vote in off-year federal elections. About 50% vote for President. About 15% vote in primaries. However, when you follow individual voters across multiple elections, turnout statistics plummet. In any one Presidential election you might get more than half of voters showing up, but very few Americans vote consistently.
Most Americans who think they are middle class, aren’t.
If “middle class” is defined people earning enough to live with some modest security, but not enjoying income from wealth, then America has a very small middle class, probably about 20% of households. Thanks to the erosion of our safety net, a rising system of financial predation, defunding of basic government services like education, and our refusal to build an effective health care system, it takes an income of around $100,000 a year, plus someone holding a full-time job with health insurance, for a household to enjoy a middle class lifestyle.
There’s a consistent 40 percentage-point gap in turnout between voters over 60 and those under 30. As a direct result, voters over 60 live in a social welfare state with a guaranteed minimum income, universal health coverage and a dense matrix of tax and benefit preferences while younger people have to join the army to get out from under their indentured education debt.
Those who promise us a “return to normal” after Trump are lying, probably to themselves as much as to us. Any new leader that fails to embark on a merciless campaign of national reinvention will merely grant us a brief “Weimar Intermission” before the next, smarter Fascist takes charge.
As presently organized, the US military isn’t defending us from anything that matters. No American soldier has been asked to “risk their life for freedom” in a very long time. No one is building a traditional army to challenge us anywhere, because it’s an archaic concept. Our safety and our freedom are most at risk from global crime networks merged with governments, and from those who exploit us through computer-related security vulnerabilities.
It’s likely that none of our aircraft carriers will ever be fired on. One day they will sink peacefully to the bottom of the ocean when we finally grow tired of paying for them.
Thanks to carbon pollution, our climate is heating up at an accelerating rate. Environmental impacts from this heating have already launched unstoppable secondary cycles of greenhouse gas emissions that will feed further warming even if we ended our carbon pollution today. We have no way out of this loop without deploying technology to remove carbon from the atmosphere. We don’t have that technology yet.
No human being, by our present genetic definition, is going to live permanently on Mars. Ever. Imagine an Earth ravaged by a series of global nuclear wars, runaway climate change, and unchecked chemical pollution, and that world would remain infinitely more friendly to human life than any environment we’ve ever discovered beyond our skies. We are going to thrive or die right here.
Republicans are our Nazis. Trump is our Hitler. That otherwise nice neighbor of yours who’s backing Trump wouldn’t feel a moment’s regret if ICE locked you and your kids in the same concentration camps where they currently hold kidnapped brown children. Whatever their reasons or excuses, they will destroy you if you let them. Act accordingly.
Remarkable human progress can emerge from surprising directions. Nation-states were once a dream considered too unnatural, too ill-suited to the human mentality to become a reality. And then one day they weren’t. The Soviet Union was an immovable monolith that would burden human existence for the foreseeable future until one day it wasn’t. Progress can happen, sometimes very suddenly.
In 1946, Germany was a smoking ruin, its people traumatized and starving. The world imagined that Germans might be incapable of supporting a democracy. Today, Germany is arguably the leader of the free world. Good things can happen, and we’re least likely to recognize those good things at the moment they are taking shape. They say hindsight is 2020.