Richard Rorty Explains the 2016 Election from his Grave

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Quoting from his 1998 book, Achieving Our Country:

[M]embers of labor unions, and unorganized unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers — themselves desperately afraid of being downsized — are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else.

At that point, something will crack. The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for — someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots. …

One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the past 40 years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out. Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion. … All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet.

Democracy (ies) of (Addicted) Viewers?

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hypo-needleFirst, let’s establish that correlation does not equal causation. But some of these maps of television show viewership are provocative.  Where is Duck Dynasty watched most?  Least? How about Modern Family?

The contrast of the shows most watched in urban vs. rural areas is ripe for cultural and media studies dissertation. Then let’s layer in maps of fatal drug overdoses and see what correlations appear to the naked eye.

Scroll down, follow the links to the Times article and scroll through the entire article to see what shows are watched most/least where. At the very bottom, enter any zip code to see the most/least watch shows in that zip.  This is first rate journalism.

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The full New York Times article link is immediately below.  For contrast, compare those maps to the recent Wall Street Journal map of per capita opiod drug overdoses (2014 in lower right)

Wall Street Journal map of fatal drug overdoses through time. Compare and contrast the 2014 (lower right) map saturation with the media maps, above.

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This begs the question, are we one nation, two, or more?

Gerrymandering Rorschach Tests

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Rorschach Ink Blot

This 2013 Times analysis of gerrymandering‘s disproportionate influence on control of the Congress still holds true.  Remember that safe seats (to one party) will promote intra-party competitions to be more ideologically pure.

Thus gerrymandering contributes to polarization in the Congress. Thus, even if your state is not highly gerrymandered, you have an interest in other states not being so.

Compare the seven most aggregious Congressional districts, below, with a sample Rorschack ink blot. “Tell me what you see?” – said the therapist.

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Congressional polarization maps.

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So, Who Do You Trust?

Public trust in government is at an all-time low, since the 1950s, according to recent Pew research:

Public trust in the government remains near historic lows. Only 19% of Americans today say they can trust the government in Washington to do what is right “just about always” (3%) or “most of the time” (16%)

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But it is not just the government,as an institution, that the public no longer trusts, it seems to be most institutions. Of 14 institutions (government, military, Supreme Court, Congress, banks, big business, small business, medical system, public education, labor unions, etc.), the percentage of Americans who by and large trust these institutions has gone down because of the Great Recession and has not recovered (Gallup research)

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And specific institutions have precipitously fallen out of favor since the Great Recession, as shown in the table below.  Only the Military and Police have had greater than 50% strong confidence of the public and kept it, since 2006.

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Religion – a Tie that Binds?

In attempting to understand who we are as a nation, religion comes to mind as a possible social glue.

According to the a recent Gallop poll, religion is “very important” in about 50% of the population’s lives (see graph below and full article here).gallup-importance-of-religion

That could be a strong binding force, if there were one binding state religion. But there is not. Rather we have a myriad of religious sect affiliations.

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Further, strong religious affiliation is not equally distributed across other population attributes, such as political party.  While half of the Republicans are “highly religious” only a third of the Democrats define themselves as such. Moreover, that 20% deficit among the Democrats resides in the “Not Religious” group — the other end of the spectrum.

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Truth is ….

“Truth is what the community of inquirers agree it is at any point in time” – Charles Pierce’s rough definition. But what if the community of inquirers are not acting in good faith or have emotional baggage that is blinding them to logic and evidence?

NASA’s web site spells it out clearly.

“Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver.” (2009)

Scientific Consensus: Earth’s Climate is Warmingnasa-global-climate-change-97

The list of believable organization that hold that human-caused climate change is real is tracked here.