Civil Discourse Now

Where the far left and far right overlap for fun and enlightenment

Obamacare, gerrymandering, Andrew Kirch and Miah Akston, and anarchy.

   Sometimes aspects of one's life criss-cross, then, more infrequently, they come together to form a nexus.

   Yesterday, at about this time, shortly after 5 a.m., I tried to get onto one the health insurance marketplace for people who live in Indiana. I could not get through. Finally a customer service rep came onto the chat box, apologized for the backlog and asked that I try back later. Later I learned there had been over one million (1,000,000) hits on the website before 7 a.m. The image that arose was of the '89ers who, offered land to settle and farm in Oklahoma, lined up and, at the appointed time, tore across the prairie to claim (from what once was tribal land) homesteads. The difference here was that people tore across the internet to try and get a better deal on health insurance.

   I was not in that land rush. There were aspects of yesterday's news that hit close to aspects of my life and experiences.

   1) Debate and squirrel cases: I wrote the other day about squirrel cases and my debate with Miah Akston and Andrew Kirch on Saturday's Show. I had been prepared to talk Obamacare, prices and availability of insurance. They hit me with arguments about Obamacare police and outrageous taxes with which people will be hit. Andrew and Miah were gracious enough to fill in after a last-minute cancellation. I do not fault them for their arguments. I addressed the merits of those arguments in my blog. I would point out, however, that in all the arguments I heard advanced in various media yesterday, none concerned Obamacare police or all the taxes Andrew listed that will hit, and hit in particular poor people. I would think if those arguments were of any particular strength, they would have been in the center of various outlets' messages.

   2) Debate and squirrel cases: Apparently Texas Senator Ted Cruz debated at Princeton. (My last audience debate, in college, was against Princeton; we won. The night before, Princeton defeated an Indiana University team of which Evan Bayh was a member.) I debated in high school and college, and for four years coached the debate team at IUPUI. In college debate we had argued that teams sought only to win (and we won) rather than attempt to address the policy problem or problems raised by a particular year's topic. On "Resolved: the Federal government should control the use of land in the United States" (I believe was the exact topic for NDT that year), teams ran affirmative cases that controlled something that came from the ground, then said the topic addressed uses of land, they controlled things that came out of the land, therefore they were "topical." (An affirmative case that loses "T," for "topicality," automatically loses. We called such cases squirrel cases. The strategy of those teams was to run a case no other team had anticipated, catch the other team without evidence, and win. In cross examination, I always asked those affirmatives, if an urban land planner came into this round and listened to your case, would that person say the case dealt with an issue with which that person was concerned in her or his job as a land planner. Ted Cruz debated at Princeton. In his particular form of debate---parliamentary---emphasis is on appeal to the emotions of an audience. His arguments reflect that past debate experience. 

   3) Anarchism: I declared myself to be a philosophical anarchist in 1975. The people who agreed with my views were what we now call, and then called, left-wing. I had just turned 20 years of age. I had met Karl Hess, former speech writer for, among others, Barry Goldwater, who turned giddy at the thought of a government shut-down. Never would I have thought people on the far right, one day, would embrace aspects of anarchism.

   4) Gerrymandering: I have read a lot the past couple of years about gerrymandering---the method of designing districts, primarily of legislative bodies, to concentrate the voters in one's opposition to fewer districts and spreading one's own party's voters amongst districts so as to capture more seats than one's opponent. Eldridge Gerry, who was a Framer of the Constitution, had his "most lasting impact on American politics ... in 1812 when, As Governor of Massachusetts, he signed a law creating such distorted voting districts they were compared to a salamander, or a 'gerrymander.'"  Stewart, "The Summer of 1787," 2007, p. 251. Both major parties have engaged in this practice. It is wrong for either or any party to engage in gerrymandering. This, in large part, is why we have reached the current impasse in Congress. Republican-dominated legislatures, following the decennial census and subsequent redistribution of votes in Congressional districts, ensured they would have as many seats as they could get. "Moderate" Republicans (if there are such creatures) are afraid to stand up to the tea baggers for fear the incumbent will be "primaried." That tactic only is effective, now, because of gerrymandering. The far right will show up for the primary election, vote down whomever would be so crass as to oppose their views, and have a decent chance at seeing the Republican "base" in a district take the seat. During the 1995-96 Federal government shutdown, 33% of the Republicans in the House were elected from districts that Bill Clinton had carried in 1992. Today, only seven percent (7%) of Republican members of the House are from districts President Obama carried in 2012.

   5) Racism: A lot of people on the far right hate President Obama because he is black. At the same time I am told to "get over" this and somehow it is not true, I see representations of President Obama as a monkey and reference to "his people" enjoying welfare, etc. Face it: racism is real, it is in place for many as against this president, and is evidence this country still has problems related to race.

   How long will the impasse and shutdown continue? Usually when leaders have predicted "wars" will be short, those leaders have been wrong. Lincoln thought the Civil War would be so short, he needed only to enlist soldiers for one year. Donald Rumsfeld thought the United States incursion into Iraq would be relatively quick. Leaders on both sides in World War I were confident troops would be home by the holidays in a war begun in August.

   This week on "Civil Discourse Now" we shall discuss the Federal government shutdown, gerrymandering, and other topics, from 11 am to 1 pm. Please join us.         


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