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September 2017

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I am going to take a break for a few days.  I will try my damnedest to not think about the election or politics. When I come back, I’m hoping for some fresh perspective.  We’ll see…

However, before I go, I want to share some thoughts that have occurred to me as I have read the election coverage in the newspaper and people’s responses on Facebook:

  • Please try to avoid saying “This isn’t *my* America” or things like that. If this is what you feel like saying, then it is an indication that you have been living inside an echo chamber and don’t have a broad enough contact with the diversity of this country.  The reality is that this *is* your America, just as it is mine and everyone else’s.  Denying that reality won’t make it any easier to solve the problems we face or change the things we don’t like about it.

  • Do not call those who voted for Mr. Trump ignorant, or stupid, or anything of the sort.  These types of insults are a big part of why they voted for him.  They are tired of being seen as ignorant, unimportant, and even invisible.  I cringed when Mrs. Clinton referred to Mr. Trump’s supporters as “deplorables”, exactly because it made her appear every bit as callous towards their needs as they believed she was. We need to stop dismissing the concerns of the rural poor, the blue collar laborer, the angry core of Mr. Trump’s support.  Only when they actually believe that their concerns have been heard will their anger abate.

  • In spite of what it might feel like right now, this is *not* the end of the world.  We will survive this. It might not be fact, I expect that it will be quite ugly, but we *will* get through it.  There will be future elections, and we will get another chance to correct our path.  In the meantime, we can help to make things a tiny, little bit less ugly by acknowledging the result and trying to figure out ways to help each other get through the next few years.

I couldn’t bring myself to watch the election coverage yesterday. The campaign has been going on for so long, and has been so ugly, that I was just exhausted.  I was in line to vote before the polls opened, and then I carefully avoided election news for the rest of the day.  Just before I went to bed, I saw some unsettling posts on Facebook that suggested that my confidence that the safety net of the Electoral College would protect us from mob-acracy might be misplaced, but it wasn’t conclusive.  So when I got up this morning and turned on the TV and learned that Mr. Trump had won the election, I was stunned.

We, as a nation, have allowed our fear to dictate our choice. I have just perused my Facebook feed, and have seen many people speculate about the reasons for this outcome.  I agree with those who indicate that fear and anger are probably the primary reasons. Too many people in this country are afraid.  They fear the strangers among us, whether they be illegal immigrants, or muslim refugees, or people with different sexual orientations or gender identities.  They fear for their personal future, that they won’t be able to afford to pay their bills, feed their families, provide a home.  The fear change, because it makes them uncomfortable, and challenges their core beliefs.

And they’re angry.  They are angry because they don’t feel heard or understood.  They feel like their fear is being laughed at, being made fun of, is considered to be the product of their ignorance.  They are angry because they don’t hear their concerns and needs being discussed in our politics.  The feel like they are either ignored, or looked down upon.  And they are tired of feeling like they don’t matter.

They are so afraid and angry that they were willing to vote for a man who is clearly and obviously not qualified for the Office to which we have just elected him.  In their hearts, I think they know this.  But he was willing to acknowledge them, and because they don’t feel like anyone else did, that was enough.

Unfortunately, I think that many of those people who voted for Mr. Trump because they believed that he spoke for them are going to be very disappointed.  I don’t think he speaks for (or cares about) anyone but himself.  His presidency is not going to do any more to address the fears, concerns, or needs of those who voted for him than anyone else has.  In the meantime, the tenor of his campaign has given the patina of legitimacy to all manner of ugly speech. Much of the progress we have made towards inclusion and equality is going to erode, and it will take some time to rebuild our structures of tolerance and compassion.

I honestly believe that Mrs. Clinton was her own worst enemy. In her own way it was fear that did her in.  She allowed her fear of embarrassment to dictate a policy of obfuscation that made her look guilty of covering up wrong-doing.  Rather than acknowledging her mistakes and promising to learn from them, she was afraid that her enemies would use them against her, so her instinct was to try to prevent those enemies from finding out.  This was a self-defeating strategy, because when her opponents did find out (as they inevitably would), her mistakes appear even worse because of the efforts to hide them.  This pattern has persisted over her entire career, and it has created a public perception of her as a scheming, manipulative operator who only cares about getting and holding power.  I think she would have been far better served by transparency over the years.  In acknowledging mistakes and learning from them, I think people would have been better able to see past the mistakes to her vision for the country.

The votes have been counted.  To say that I am unhappy with the result is a gross understatement.  But I will not claim that the results are invalid or fraudulent. I will grit my teeth and cross my fingers and hope (against all hope) for the best. But for this country to move forward, one thing needs to change. We need to start listening to each other.  We need to stop calling each other names and dismissing the concerns of the other side as “stupid” or “evil”.  If we could take a moment to actually listen to the needs, concerns, and fears of our opponents, then we just might have a chance to work together in ways that are constructive, rather than divisive.  Compromise is not a dirty word.  It is how we get things done.  No one gets everything they want, but everyone gets at least a little something. But that is only possible if we know what the other side needs.  I have no illusions that the rhetoric is going to change, but I will try to do my best to set an example.  I will try to listen to those who disagree with me and to try to understand their point of view.  If we each make that little effort, then maybe we can slowly change the direction we are headed.
Perhaps it's because the outcome of the congressional race in my district was entirely predictable, but I find myself without any strong emotional reaction to the results of Tuesday's elections. There may be additional factors at work, as well.

I've been listening to the "My History Can Beat Up Your Politics" podcast ( for several months now, and Bruce Carlson, the podcaster, provides an excellent and thoughtful analysis of the history of American politics. One of the things he's been emphasizing for weeks is that it is entirely normal for the President's party to lose seats in Congress in the mid-term elections. In fact, it is so common that the opposite result can be considered an anomaly. So, in a sense, what happened on Tuesday is an entirely normal and predictable result of American politics. While the rhetoric of this years campaigns certainly ranks among some of the nastiest, the outcome seems to be entirely within the predictable range, based on historical results. So, the changes on Capitol Hill did not really surprise me.

Furthermore, I'm not entirely convinced that the change will be a bad thing. While the Republicans (in particular the supporters of the "Tea Party" movement) will crow about their victory, the reality is that they will not have sufficient numbers to over-ride a presidential veto. The Republican majority in the House will NOT be able to fully dictate the legislative agenda. They will need to convince the President to sign their bills, and will need to accommodate the Democrats in the Senate. Furthermore, now that they control the House, they will need to demonstrate that they can actually accomplish something. Hopefully, this will lead to a more bi-partisan dialog and a reduction in the divisive rhetoric of the last few years. Perhaps I'm being overly optimistic, but while there may be an initial showdown between the two parties, I believe that once we get beyond that, we may find a more pragmatic atmosphere settling over Capitol Hill.

So, while I'm sympathetic to the hand-wringing of many of my friends, I'm not sure that the election results are the sign of impending disaster that some people seem to think they are. Time will tell, but I sincerely hope that this will be a turning point towards a return towards a somewhat less dysfunctional political debate.
Virginia exit poll.

Apparently last year was an anomaly. It is the morning after election day, and I find myself upset about the election results. This seems to be my norm, but I really enjoyed feeling upbeat and positive after last year's election. Not so much, this year.

I was looking at the exit poll for the Virginia gubernatorial election (linked above). The demographic numbers weren't really very surprising (though I would've expected the independent voters to be a little more evenly split). What surprised me, though, was the response to the question: "Which one issue mattered most in deciding how you voted for governor?". The overwhelming majority identified Economy/jobs as the most important issue.

Given all the news about the economy, I guess this shouldn't have surprised me. But I guess I'm fortunate to have a career that has insulated me from the economy. The economic downturn hasn't really had a meaningful impact on me, so it wasn't really an issue I gave much thought to. On the other hand, I have been growing increasingly frustrated by the growing transportation problems in this region, and the complete lack of reasonable response from our state leaders. For me solving our transportation crisis (and how to pay for it) was the critical issue. But this came in LAST in the exit poll.

Its a reminder that my experiences are far from the norm for Virginians. As an outlier, I need to step back and remember that all those voters in the rural regions of the state don't have to cope with horrendous traffic and resent being asked to pay to solve problems that they don't feel impact them. These are probably also the same voters who have felt the impact of the weak economy the most strongly. Once upon a time, I was one of those voters--as a voter in Upstate New York, I used to have similar attitudes regarding issues that involved New York City. Now I'm sitting on the other side, frustrated that the rest of the state is unwilling to address the growing problems in my region.

So, I'm not particularly happy with the outcome of the election, but I can take consolation in knowing that things will change. The Virginia Governor cannot run for re-election (a really weird term limit, IMO), so in four years we will elect someone else.
The federal election last November left a vacancy on the Fairfax County (Virginia) Board of Supervisors. Gerry Connolly, the Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, forcing him to resign from the Board of Supervisors. Yesterday, Fairfax County had a special election to fill his seat as Chairman.

In a county with over 1 million residents and about 680,000 registered voters, only 107,713 votes were cast (according to unofficial results). The county is facing a significant budget shortfall, we have transportation problems galore, as well as a host of other important issues for the Board of Supervisors to address. Even so, only 16% of the registered voters could be bothered to help choose the Board's next leader. How pathetic...

Mid-day voting

Nov. 4th, 2008 11:55 am
resqgeek: (I voted)
One advantage of living close to where I work is that, when necessary, I can pop home during the day to take care of things that need to be done. Given the projections for long lines at the polls this morning and again in the evening, I suggested that my wife pick me up during the middle of the day. We'd vote, and then grab a bite of lunch before she deposited me back at my office. It worked like a charm.

When we pulled up at our polling place, there were a few cars around, but no sign of a crowd. The check-in table had a line of about a half-dozen people with names starting with A-G, but the H-O line where my name falls was vacant, so it was a breeze to check in. I was then directed to the end of the line of a dozen or so waiting to use the electronic, touch-screen voting machines. Here I was given a choice of waiting in line for a machine, or taking an optical scan sheet ballot and using any of about a dozen empty booths to fill it out. That was a no-brainer. I took the ballot and the pen they offered, found a booth and filled in the appropriate bubbles. I fed the ballot into the scanning machine, and I was finished.

Even with lunch, I was only gone from the office for a total of one hour. If I had waited until this evening, I bet the wait to check in would have been longer than that...
In an astonishingly credulous piece on the front page of the sports section of today's Washington post is a chart that correlates the pre-election day Washington Redskins game results to the outcome of the presidential election. The caption reads: In 16 of the 17 presidential elections since the Redskins moved to Washington in 1937, the incumbent party has kept the White House when the Redskins won their final home game before the election. The lone exception: President Bush's victory over Sen. John Kerry in 2004.

But I have to ask, what's the point? Is there any reason to expect any sort of causal relationship here? I certainly can't think of any plausible reason why these two sets of results have any meaningful causal relationship. While they have correlated amazingly well, it strikes me as a case of finding patterns because we want them to be there. Note for example, that the football results are the last home game results rather than the last game prior to the election. How does the pattern change if we use the road games instead of the home games? But nothing in the chart in the paper even hints at these questions, but leaves it up to the reader to figure out on their own.

For the record, this year's last home game before the election was last night's loss to the Steelers.

They blinked!

Dec. 1st, 2007 09:12 pm
resqgeek: (Default)
I never would have predicted it, but the Virginia Republican party has abandoned its plans to require voters to sign a loyalty pledge in order to vote in the Republican primary in February. Apparently, the response to the planned pledge was overwhelming, including from within the party. Many party members are concerned that the planned pledge might (??) alienate the independent voters. In any case, the pledge will not be required to vote in the Virginia Republican primary. Both parties have their primaries scheduled for the same day, so it will only be possible to vote in one or the other. I suppose I'll have to see how the races are shaping up as we approach the date, and vote in the primary where I feel like I might have a chance to influence the outcome.

[Read more from today's Washington Post]
I have voted in very few primary elections in my life. As a voter in New York, I wasn't eligible to vote in any primaries, because I refused to register as a member of a political party, and the primaries are only open to party members. Since I moved to Virginia, there have been precious few primaries, so my opportunities to vote in them have been limited.

The last time I voted in a Republican primary was in 2000, during presidential race (and for the record, I did NOT vote for "W"). Virginia does not record party affiliation in the voter registration information and therefore cannot restrict access to primaries using party membership. Back in 2000, the Republican primary was open to anyone who was willing to sign a (wholly unenforceable) pledge not to participate in any other party's nominating process. Since Al Gore was pretty much a lock for the Democratic nomination, this really was a no brainer for me...I signed the pledge and voted (which gained me about four years worth of Republican Party mailings).

Apparently, the Virginia Republican Party feels that it isn't sufficient for voters to promise not to participate in any other party's primaries. In the upcoming presidential primary, they will require voters to sign a pledge that will read:

Instruction to voter:

You can vote in this presidential primary only if you sign and print your name to the voter pledge below. You will not be permitted to vote if you refuse to do so.

Pledge: I, the undersigned, pledge that I intend to support the nominee of the Republican Party for President.

Okay, so the pledge cannot be enforced, since our votes are completely secret, but still, I can't promise to support the Republican nominee, regardless of who ends up winning the nomination. I might like to vote in the Republican primary, and if the right candidate were to win the nomination, I might even support him in the general election, but the chance that the Republican nominee will be someone I can support seems extremely remote (and will probably be even more remote by the time the Virginia primary arrives).

So, it looks like I'll be voting in the Democratic Party primary on 12 February, unless the Democrats also decide to require me to sign a pledge that I can't commit to. Sometimes I think I'm just too honest for my own good.

More details in today's Washington Post.
If one more person here at work asks me about voting...

As I told one of the first to ask (before I got fed up with the question), if I didn't vote, I wouldn't be able to complain about the results, and I really enjoy complaining about the results! :o)

Seriously, I've voted in every election since my eighteenth birthday, and am a big believer in being part of the process. I was surprised to find a bit of a line when I reached my polling location at about 11:00 today. Normally, midday is the best time to avoid a line. It wasn't a long wait, though, only about 15 minutes, and I must say I'm actually pleased, as this is a sign that voter turnout is high. My wife was talking to the volunteers while I waited, and they said that the line was still out the door at 10:00, which is far later than it normally stays that long. I was the 585 voter checked in (and that was just the tally for people with names starting with A-K). All this is a bit surprising, because it is truly an off-year election here in Virginia. Only the Senate seat and our local House seat are on the ballot, along with some referendum items. There are no state or local offices up for election today in Virginia. I'm glad to see voters coming out to participate in the process anyway. I suspect that the voter turnout is due to a combination of the close Senate race and the controversial referendum on the marriage amendment.

I had no problems voting today. I even managed to avoid being molested by the campaign workers outside the polling location, which is in the gym at my daughters' school. Schools are closed today, and the teachers use the day for parent-teacher conferences. My wife and I went to the school to meet with our daughters' teachers, using the schools main entrance, which allowed us to avoid the campaigners waiting by the side entrance to the gym. After our meetings, we strolled down the hall to the gym, voted, and left, without ever being approached by anybody trolling for our vote. Very pleasant, indeed.