David Brin’s election round-up – The road ahead

  • Published on November 12th, 2012

By David Brin

While I am relieved to have the U.S. election behind us, I’ll be disengaging from politics in stages. As a contrarian gadfly, I’m expected to toss some unusual, off-angle suggestions at both winners and losers.

But first… a mere tad of gloating, plus some riffs about libertarians, marijuana, gay marriage, science and etcetera!

1) Yes yes, the real winner was Nate Silver — our new national demigod. What I don’t get is how he compensated for pollsters’ obsolete definitions of “likely voter.”  The Obama ground game changed the meaning of that term. They found ways to shame both former slackers and fresh first-timers to the polls. Expect those methods to be used with a vengeance in the 2014 by-elections.
This will be doubly effective if the democrats (and or their allies) first concentrate on early recruitment of fresh candidates. Hint: go after retired Army colonels and navy captains, vet them to pick the super-educated, level-headed kind – I know the type! – and hurl them into the 2014 primaries, all over the map. Primaries are now the navel of American politics, especially in red counties. This invites innovative thinking, especially in gerrymandered districts, finding ways to promote moderate, science-friendly pragmatists. Find fresh ways to contest them all!
2) Congratulations to all our LGBT friends. You’ve taken major strides and this time victory was helped by a calming decorum. Both the method and the outcome bode well for you. As inevitable as the final goal is, the road must still be taken step by step into a headwind.
Some of that wind will break in new directions! Expressing despair, a couple of my redder pals talk of emigrating! Alas, Canada (“bluer than New York”) just won’t do, so they’re looking farther afield. Ah, but to quote an amusing tweet that’s gone viral:
@RedRefugee: you say “if Obama wins I’m off to Australia” but our PM is a single atheist woman & we have universal health care & mandatory voting. 
3) Speaking of schadenfreude, pity poor Karl Rove. Not only was he trampled underfoot by his own people at Fox, but his Crossroads operation spent nearly $300 million against President Obama and other Democrats. Separately, Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate, spent similar amounts all by himself, backing loser after loser. Astonishingly, somehow, the dems always drew enough small donations to keep up! Almost as if the oligarchic putsch was drawing a popular immune response, a reaction worthy of heirs of the original American Revolution.
Which raises the question: what good is unlimited money if you can’t buy a country?
4) Science, the central enemy of Culture War, stood up for itself in several ways, during the election.  Shawn Otto’s ScienceDebate.org forced both campaigns to answer piercing questionnaires and Scientific American scrupulously examined the answers.  Now see the post-election editorial at Popular Science handing a stiff set of firm requests for the re-elected president, above all that he stand up for the one trait most responsible for our flourishing across the last 70 years — the innovation and constant re-evaluation that arises out of curiosity.

5) Mark Newman has resized the electoral map (top image on right) to adjust for population: popular votes (middle), electoral votes (bottom). Read the article in Science News.
6) Above all,  this election result means that Dick Cheney’s gang – who surrounded Romney – won’t get their hands on the US military again, any time soon. Cheney’s crew did more harm to America, and our military, than anyone else in a human lifetime, including the Soviets and Viet Cong. Our brave men and women deserve to rest and rebuild — while taking on occasional daring tasks with stunning courage and skill — without being plunged into any more draining, multi-trillion dollar, futile quagmires. Perhaps, with another four years in exile, the GOP will finally purge itself of Cheney’s loony “brain trust” and bring in adults to represent their side of the conversation.

Maddow appeals to conservatives: use facts and we’ll listen

Is Rachel Maddow gloating over the election results? Well, sure. But I still hope earnest conservatives will grit their teeth and watch this cogent appeal directed at them. Asking them to rejoin the conversation. To compete with liberals in the realm of reality, and not the fantasy land concocted by Fox delusion merchants. Those cynical hypnotists have had a long run, peddling narratives that — though truth-free — make the viewer nod and feel good, blissfully sure that their foes are orcs or trolls or commie-satanists or… democrats.  Only now it’s time to put away childish things.
There will still be plenty to argue about, after all the birther-climate-denier-black-helicopter silliness is put aside — really interesting competition over testable theories about governance and practical problem solving. Those reality tests will sometimes rule in favor of grownup conservatism! Maddow appeals for a restoration of fact-friendly, science-loving conservatism not because she will then agree with it, but because we’ll all be better off if there are two sane sides bringing reasoned, testable ideas to the table.
Look, I don’t agree with all Maddow rants. Sometimes she brings out my latent Buckley! But this time? She is spot-on.
Restoring conservatism to its roots won’t be easy. Hannity and Limbaugh are more fun – in their indignant lie-extravaganzas – than nerdy Bill Buckley ever was, arguing calmly with every bright opponent he could find. But Hannity, Limbaugh and Murdoch are crazy men who avoid ever facing questions or accountability. They’ll lead conservatism to rigidity, demographic irrelevance, hallucination and extinction. Take a hint from the election. We’ll all be richer and better if bright conservatives pass this test of courage.

Libertarians, Marijuana and Cheetos

 While my main goal was to avoid a calamitous Bush III return of Dick Cheney’s gang of 1000 gremlins — and thank heavens that doom was evaded — I did divide my support a bit, by also sending money to Gary Johnson, then going online to urge that both Hawaiians and Alaskans turn out their votes for him!
I hoped Johnson would make his 5% goal and that real momentum would (1) give his moderate wing real clout in the libertarian movement, helping draw down the fevered infection of Rand-Rothbard cultism, and (2) that smart, sincere, socially relaxed fiscal conservatives who despair of the GOP’s present madness would then have a place to which they might flee. A party to call their own. A new base from which to rejoin the conversation.
Well, there was bad news and good news.  Falling well short of 5%, Johnson did sharply better than any other LP candidate, with nearly 1.3 million votes nationwide, representing about 1.2 percent of the total popular presidential vote in the 48 states where he ran. Real incremental improvement…
… only now it seems that libertarianism is moving forward, not via candidates, but ballot initiatives!  The Drug War was dealt a heavy blow in Washington and Colorado, where citizens approved measures legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana. Across America, 50% poll ready for this change. And now President Obama has the cover he needs in order to take a step forward, nationwide.
Instead of pushing to legalize marijuana at a national level, he could declare an “experimental moratorium” on enforcement of federal pot possession laws in those two states, while still helping Colorado and Washington crack down on illegal importation.  This would seem a measured step, in keeping with the principle of states’ rights that Republicans could hardly object-to! Well, we can hope.  He does owe the young people of those two states. Big time.
Next? Move to adjust the “schedules” of types of drugs and penalties to staunch the flow of mere-users into our overloaded and unfair prison systems. Talk about a place to seek savings! And to stop wasting lives.

Only now… let me take one of my patented contrarian veers! While I am hugely in favor of experiments to escape the infinity-damned Drug War and to emphaisize personal responsibility, I’m also aware of certain drawbacks.  For example:
1) THC remains detectable in your blood for days after all symptoms of use are gone. To establish DUI rules you can’t simply adopt the alcohol standards. We’ll need research, patience and innovation.
2) Those who call marijuana “completely harmless” are liars and they know it.  The thing every honest person admits? It is an ambition-wrecking drug. In many, though not all users, pot fosters torpidity and mellow harmlessness. Unless you include the “harm” of many users failing to get up off their giggling-cynical-mellow asses!  I predict we’ll drift toward a new approach to such quasi addictive drugs, allowing personal choice… but with an expanded right of families to intervene and even impose guardianship, if the user can’t hold a job or want more than the next bag of Cheetos. **
That will satisfy no one.  But it may soften opposition just enough to make this a national movement away from a prohibition insanity that spanned all of our lifetimes.

Puerto Rican Statehood?

Wow, another sea change that I’ll weigh in on, some time.  One member of my blogmunity said:
“My concerns about Puerto Rico: There is a large part of the population that does not want to be a U.S. State. Do you want to start with a Quebec-like situation? Also, their existing political parties are not associated with the mainstream parties, though they could align themselves quickly, I guess. There could be accusations of U.S. imperialism — or other poor small countries across the world might decide to apply to join in turn…”

Yep. Plenty of parameters to consider. Such as how the Republicans can oppose this new state — with its inevitable Democratic majority — and not thereby offend U.S. Hispanics even more.
Then there’s another matter far more important… how do you sort 51 stars on the flag? Let’s see: 3 x 7 and 3 x 10… too rectangular!  3×8 + 3×9  same problem! I suppose 3×7 and 5×6… Um… Hey South Carolina.  Wanna secede again? Maybe this time we won’t put up such a fuss.
As you might expect, my own worry about Puerto Rican Statehood is unique and original (though I just offered a hint.) Remind me in a few months and I’ll explain. 

Interesting times. Onward for now…
** Oh, and any letters about marijuana should be sent not to me but to Stephen Colbert.  He can use the material — and samples.  Tell him David – friend of the show – Brin sent you.
(Originally appeared at Contrary Brin)

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