Mona Tailor: The Disillusioned Voter

“Well, it doesn’t matter anyway…It’s all been decided anyway.”

mona1I cannot tell you the number of times I heard this phrase yesterday. “It’s all been decided anyway.” This was heard in my workplace, on the twitter-sphere, and even in the locker room of the gym!

These quotes gave away to something else bigger too. No one seemed excited about this election, regardless of what party you side with.

I remember when I registered to vote. I was a senior in high school; able to register since I would be 18 by the time it was November. I was so excited for the ability to vote and so proud I had already done so. I have voted in every election since, only missing 1 year.

I don’t remember ever being so unenthused about an election until this one. Maybe it’s the economy, or the President, or just the overall “nothing is happening” in Washington, DC attitude. Congress has been a display of gridlock with approval ratings that reflect the lack of action in our capital.

Unlike the prior decades of the 40s/50s/60s, it seems that since Watergate in the 1970s, we have become more cynical, and our faith in our government has slowly been chipped away. You run for political office now by refuting the system, and then slowly becoming part of it.

Now, I wonder if there’s anything left to chip away. The faith seems to be at a bare minimum. From what I can tell, I’m not the only one.

In this age of social media, sound bites, and concern for a particular image, is there any candidate or way to help us restore some faith in government and inspire the enthusiasm of the past? Only time will tell.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Don’t be a (political) playa hater!

jyb_musingsLast night, Kentucky served as our nation’s crucible for testing the political winds at the national level. Five term incumbent U.S Senator Mitch McConnell, with an unpopular President of the opposite party in the White House, seemed on the surface to have a significant advantage.
But public fatigue and cynicism seemed to be conspiring against Sen McConnell and made his seat more vulnerable than any time in his 30 years in the Senate.
Many good Democrats passed on challenging Sen McConnell. But one had the courage of her convictions —and a great deal of both courage AND convictions. And despite being a relative newcomer to Kentucky statewide politics, Alison Lundergan Grimes, had that special and indefinable quality. That “X” factor that makes people believe –and want to believe — more in her and her ability than her resume might suggest possible.
I was one of those people. I proudly supported Alison Lundergan Grimes and am proud —so proud– of the race she ran. She took on the most daunting political race in the entire United States of America this year and said, “Yeah, I want to take on this challenge. And I’m ready.” And she was as ready–more ready –than her harshest detractors ever imagined.
She fought the good fight for the right reasons –not because it was the “smart thing to do” but because it was what she felt compelled to do. People like Alison impress me. They run for the U.S Senate against the most powerful Senator in the nation and make the race the political touchstone for our nation. But that’s not why people like Alison Lundergan Grimes impress me. They impress me because people like Alison Lundergan Grimes change the world. She did a little bit this year. Almost a whole lot. And she will continue to change the world and make it a little bit better next year. And the year after that. And the year after that.
She is special and we all — especially all democrats in our state (and nation) owe her a great debt of gratitude tonight. I take my hat off to her to her. And I don’t even wear hats. Well done, Alison.
But Alison didn’t lose. Really, in my view, Sen Mitch McConnell won. No one is particularly fond of the deluge of non-stop political ads that is the battle field on which our political races these days are largely fought and determined. But both candidates did much more and gave up blood, sweat, toil and tears far greater than those silly commercials would ever indicate. This US Senate race was, on every conceivable level, one for the ages.
If this race started as largely a question as to whether 30 year incumbent Senator McConnell still had the fire in his belly, the answer by the time the polls opened this morning was a resounding and unequivocal yes! In fact, by September whether the “fire in the belly” still existed was no longer in dispute. It was now a question of whether it would become a conflagration. And looking at the vote totals tonight, I would say it did.
And congratulations to Sen McConnell on winning a record Kentucky six term tonight.
Elections settle things. Sort of. They sometimes feel in the heat of a campaign like an epic battle of good versus evil (depending on your party). But they aren’t really. They are usually two very talented, driven people of both integrity and goodwill who have very different ideas of how to solve the problems that face our nation, state or community. And only one can win.
Last night Senator McConnell won –again. And my nonexistent  hat is tipped most respectfully to him. Well done, Senator. I may not have voted for you. But this campaign —and especially tonight — you earned my respect, again, and I wish you all the best as you start your sixth term —and I expect you to fight the good fight, in your own way as you earned the right to do so tonight, and fight for the state we both love deeply along with about four-and-a-half million other Kentuckians.
So, political races are about decisions. About endings. And about new beginnings.
And although elections seem mostly to be about the candidate who run for office, they are much more about us, the voting public.
A hard battle was waged and fought –and fought hard –and tonight we have a victor. And the voters, campaign workers, citizen activists, poll workers and politically indifferent citizens all —all have a newly elected US Senator.
In boxing, a sport we know a thing or two about in Kentucky, when the final bell of the last round rings the two gladiators lumber toward each other and hug and congratulate each other as a sign of mutual respect. The boxing audience, though still cheering for their favorite boxer, feels that same mutual respect. Likewise, political opponents do much the same thing on Election Day. And so should we the voters tonight.
Time to clear off our stadium seat, throw away our soft drink and bag of peanuts, put on our overcoat and head for the parking lot to find our car. And head home.
Until next time.

Lauren Mayer: Bipartisan Nostalgia

In this hyper-partisan era, many writers wax nostalgic about when politics were more civil, when Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan could work together despite their differences, when people disagreed politely.  That’s the great thing about nostalgia – you only have to remember the good parts (like how I love 1930s clothes and music but wouldn’t want to restore that era’s sexism, racism, or economic inequity).  Likewise, there was plenty of political ugliness in the past – but I do think the op ed pieces have a point, in that these days we have lost even the superficial veneer of civilized disagreement.

With that in mind, this week’s song is a hybrid of my own admitted fierce partisanship and an effort to emulate the 1930s, by adopting the gracious tone and witty wordplay of a Noel Coward song.  I may be totally one-sided here, but at least I can do it with grace and style!

Mona Tailor: An Independent Voter’s Take on the KY Senate Race

mona1My friends have been asking for my opinion on the KY Senate Race this year. “Who do I vote for?” Frankly, I am not a fan of either candidate at this point. A Courier-Journal tweet yesterday shared a poll saying that KY Voters are mostly pleased with their candidate options this year. I’m really curious as to who they talked to for this poll.

Now, let’s be serious, the state of KY really has only 1 senator working for our state, whose identity will be determined with this election. Like Ted Mosby with his yellow legal pad in “How I Met Your Mother,” here are the pros and cons as I see them.

Mitch McConnell. Pros: He would likely be republican leader if the Republicans win a majority in the Senate. His seniority and experience brings attention to our state and possibilities for Kentucky to help shape national policy. He employs a lot of Kentuckians on his staff. He also affords a lot of opportunities to his constituents. On some level, he truly cares for the state.

Cons: He’s been in office for 30 years. 30 years. Let’s put that in perspective, I’m 30 years old! That is as long as I’ve been alive! At this point, he has become the face of gridlock in Congress, whether he likes it or not, and his staunch positions have probably helped slow our government down more than anything else.

Alison Lundergan Grimes. Pros: She’s a fresh new face to represent us in the Senate. She’s a woman and would be inspiring for young Kentuckian girls to see in office. She says she will be an independent thinker, being a voice for Kentuckians and not succumb to a political parties leaning. She will stand up for what she believes in. Most importantly for me, she recognizes that the Affordable Care Act has been very helpful in our state, and even though not everything has worked well, she is willing to make modifications to the Affordable Care Act rather than repealing it entirely.

Cons: She has very limited experience. She is just completing her first term as Kentucky’s Secretary of State. She would have some growing pains as she begins this position, and would likely need some of the 6 years to just acclimate to the environment as a freshman Senator. Her family connections have been more questionable than anything else. There seems to be some sense of entitlement due to her family connections as a result too.

As good as my pros and cons list is for both candidates, I still have not made a decision about this race. As multiple lobbying groups from across the country pour money into our state, our airwaves have been filled with negative campaigning. The negative ads are ultimately most effective; however, with the current options, they have reinforced my lack of faith in both of these candidates.

I have yet to decide where my vote lies for Tuesday, November 4th. I want a candidate who would best represent us and who would be the best voice for Kentucky.   So far, I’m not convinced. I have a feeling I’m not alone. It’s going to be a long weekend.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Fundraising Emails

jyb_musingsThey say death and taxes are the only two things you can rely on. But that was before Democratic Party fundraising emails. I am beginning to think these are even more reliable than the two long established standbys. And certainly more constant.

I am a proud and life-long Democrat and intend to remain that way.

And hope my party feels the same way about me. Right now — a little over a week from Election Day — I average receiving about 40 desperate to exciting fundraising emails a day from the national party. I love that they are keeping me so informed by the half-hour and giving me so many opportunities to contribute money. And it is the only thing that happens to me 40 times a day. Which is interesting too. And I think a good thing.

I just wonder if they will keep emailing me this often after November…

I hope I at least get a Christmas card. And an update about the family and how everyone is doing in school and personally and in Congress.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: A Call to Non-Lameness

jyb_musingsA call to action. A call to non-lameness. 

Is it really possible that there are a few people still out there who find it downright giggle-worthy to send other people on Facebook a private message pretending to be someone else –someone who is younger and of the opposite sex— in order to fake a romantic interest to see what the person on Facebook will say? 

It was funny the first 3 or 4 times. The next dozen or so times seemed to be when this prank seemed to crest in raw hilarity and start to slowly decline so that by the 70th or 80th time it has been tried on you, you don’t even get annoyed any more at these pranking individuals but have instead started to worry for their mental health and comedic IQ.

Look, when I was younger my generation had some super lame pranks we repeated long after we should have been embarrassed for ourselves. There was the prank call asking “Is your refrigerator running” and after an affirmative answer we would suggest our victim be careful not to let it “run” out the door. Get it? Run as in operating and run as in motion. And there was the prank call to a bowling alley asking the weight of the bowling balls as a set up for a painfully lame and sophomoric genital joke.

And these jokes got repeated so often and for so many years that I worried that if a superior life form existed in our solar system and got wind of this repeated prank, they would write off our entire planet forever as a worthless species.
These jokes were terrible. Just really awful and But, hey, all we had for entertainment was Pong so it isn’t surprising that our wit was running at about the same speed.

But the younger generation, who I am assuming is responsible for these faux Facebook flirt messages, my God. I mean, c’mon! I know you are supposed to be the first generation in American history who had a lesser standard of living than your parents. But that doesn’t mean you have to be the first with a lesser sense of humor. There is no excuse for that and you are going to have to dig down and ask more of yourselves when trying to make a funny.

Geez. Look at me. I’m an old man writing long ridiculous Facebook posts for laughs and I have been doing it for 3 years now. I admit it is a lame use of time but can you imagine how much lamer it would have been if I had spent all that time sending fake private messages to some stranger on Facebook who may not realize i I’m really not a 21 year old ingenue?

You have to do better young wisecrackers and comedic miscreants! And I know you can do it. Stretch yourselves! Get out of your comfort zone. Look at the two old jokes from my generation and study them as building blocks for new lame jokes that won’t be so humiliating to your generation as these fake Facebook flirts. You can do it. You have what it takes. The time is now. And I am real —not a fake teenage girl. And even if I were pretending to be a young breathless girl right now flirting with a stranger on Facebook, that not even you—if you were honest with yourself–would think it was funny.

Let’s commit to coming up with a new Facebook prank–that isn’t inexplicably lame. Together we will make sure that your generation, material measurements notwithstanding, will never be lamer than your parent’s generation. I am that generation. And trust me, we are pretty darned lame.

Jeff Smith Offers His Hometown Recovering Pol Perspective on Ferguson

Tomorrow, our very own contributing RP Jeff Smith will be appearing on MSNBC’s “The Cycle” to discuss the tragic situation in Ferguson, Missouri, from his unique perspective as a social scientist who represented the St. Louis region in the Missouri legislature.

Jeff has already emerged as the go-to guy for many national news sources on the continuing crisis.

This morning, the New York Times published his op-ed, “In Ferguson, Black Town, White Power” which answers the perplexing question as to why it appears that a majority African-American population is being governed by mostly white authorities. Here’s an excerpt:

POLITICS, wrote the political scientist Harold Lasswell in 1936, is about “who gets what, when, and how.” If you want to understand the racial power disparities we’ve seen in Ferguson, Mo., understand that it’s not only about black and white. It’s about green.

Back in 1876, the city of St. Louis made a fateful decision. Tired of providing services to the outlying areas, the city cordoned itself off, separating from St. Louis County. It’s a decision the city came to regret. Most Rust Belt cities have bled population since the 1960s, but few have been as badly damaged as St. Louis City, which since 1970 has lost almost as much of its population as Detroit.

This exodus has left a ring of mostly middle-class suburbs around an urban core plagued by entrenched poverty. White flight from the city mostly ended in the 1980s; since then, blacks have left the inner city for suburbs such as Ferguson in the area of St. Louis County known as North County.

Ferguson’s demographics have shifted rapidly: in 1990, it was 74 percent white and 25 percent black; in 2000, 52 percent black and 45 percent white; by 2010, 67 percent black and 29 percent white.

The region’s fragmentation isn’t limited to the odd case of a city shedding its county. St. Louis County contains 90 municipalities, most with their own city hall and police force. Many rely on revenue generated from traffic tickets and related fines. According to a study by the St. Louis nonprofit Better Together, Ferguson receives nearly one-quarter of its revenue from court fees; for some surrounding towns it approaches 50 percent.

Click here for the full piece.

Last week, Jeff wrote an influential piece for The New Republic, “You Can’t Understand Ferguson Without First Understanding These Three Things.”  Here’s an excerpt:

You can’t really understand Fergusonthe now-famous St. Louis suburb with a long history of white people sometimes maliciously, sometimes not, imposing their will on black people’s livesunless you understand Kinloch.

Kinloch, the oldest black town in Missouri, is now essentially a ghost town, but it wasn’t always that way. In fact, it thrived for nearly a century after its founding in the 1890s. Back then, restrictive housing covenants prohibited the direct sale of property to blacks, so a white real estate firm purchased parcels of land, marked them up over 100 percent, and resold them to blacks.” One advertisement noted, “The good colored people of South Kinloch Park have built themselves a little city of which they have a right to be proud. More than a hundred homes, three churches and a splendid public school have been built in a few years.”

The turn of the century was a heady time for the bustling little town. The Wright Brothers visited Kinloch Airfield in one of their earliest tours, and the airfield hosted an event at which Theodore Roosevelt took the maiden presidential airplane flight, which lasted approximately three minutes. Kinloch Airfield was home to the first control tower, the first aerial photo, and the first airmail shipped by a young pilot named Charles Lindbergh. A streetcar line ran through Ferguson, helping Kinloch residents travel to jobs throughout the region, and perhaps more importantly, exposing many whites to Kinloch as they passed through. Despite the region’s decidedly Southern folkways and segregated housing arrangements, blacks and whites rode the streetcars as equals. Kinloch itself was also notable for its relative enlightenment; despite school segregation, it became the first Missouri community to elect a black man to its school board.

All that began to change in 1938. A second black man sought election to the school board in the district which had a narrow black majoritywhites inhabited the north and blacks the southand whites responded by attempting to split the school district. It failed: 415 blacks in the south voted unanimously against the effort, while 215 whites in the north all supported it. So to get around the small problem of losing democratically, whites in the northern half of Kinloch immediately formed a new municipality called Berkeley, and a rare Missouri effort at integrated governance ended. Kinloch continued to thrive for the next several decades as a small nearly all-black town of churches, shops, community centers, and tidy homes.

In the 1980s, the airportlong since been renamed Lambert International Airportbegan snatching up property to build an additional runway. From 1990 to 2000, Kinloch shed over 80 percent of its population, and as the community fabric frayed, it was increasingly plagued by crime and disorder.

Construction on airport expansion, which cost well over a billion dollars and involved 550 companies, began in 2001. Unfortunately, two other things happened that year: American Airlines bought TWA, and 9/11. Which means that the airport is dramatically underutilized now; a senior airport official told me Lambert could easily handle twice the traffic it currently gets.

Meanwhile, many of the residents displaced by this wasteful construction project have ended up in Fergusonspecifically, in Canfield Green, the apartment complex on whose grounds Michael Brown tragically died.

Click here for the full piece.

Jeff has also been burning up the Twitter feed (@JeffSmithMO) with his brilliant perspective on each day’s events.  Click here to read a “Storify” of his last few days of tweeting.

Lauren Mayer: From Whence Cometh Creativity

As I approach the 2-year anniversary of my weekly song project, it’s fascinating to look back on how my writing process has developed, and to see what lessons I’ve learned.  So here are a few tips to share with any readers who are either contemplating a creative venture (or who would enjoy a vicarious peek at something they’d rather not experience first-hand . . . .)

– Writing is frequently 1% inspiration and 99% putting-your-rear-in-a-chair.  In other words, the best way to learn to write is to write.  (My 8th-grade English class was fortunate enough to meet with Ray Bradbury once, and he shared his practice of forcing himself to write 10 pages every single day – sometimes those pages consisted of “I have nothing to say” over and over again, but with enough repetition, he would eventually come up with something usable.)

– Give yourself permission to write crap.  It’s always easier to edit than to start from scratch, but it’s almost impossible to come up with anything if you are afraid it won’t be fabulous.

– Be open to inspiration from unexpected places.  Sure, some weeks have a fabulous, everyone’s-talking-about-it story, which is how I came up with “Oh Won’t You Put Me In Your Binder Full Of Women.”  (And the fact that you probably get that reference, nearly 2 years later, shows you how memorable that story was.)  But there are definitely weeks I find myself thinking “oh, crap, what am I going to do this week?,” and then when I’m not looking for it, an idea will pop into my head.  (For example, after Dick Cheney started popping up on news shows, plugging his ‘let’s-bomb-everyone’ website, I heard my husband & son in yet another volley of sophomoric, off-color jokes, and that inspired “I’m Sick Of Dick”.)

– And be open to suggestions – especially when you have a deadline.  I am fortunate to have some wonderful subscribers & supporters, who occasionally send me ideas.  I can’t always use every one, but my friend Lucien, who is the web designer for The Political Carnival, sent me the inspiration for this week’s song:

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Math Rude

jyb_musingsI have decided that people in NYC aren’t really rude. They just aren’t very people smart and don’t know how to handle it.

Like the kid in high school who strughled with math and would say things like “Math is stupid!” or “No one will ever use this stuff. What a waste of time!” He wasn’t being rude but what we will call “Math rude” because he was confused about how to do math and was afraid others might notice.

I know this happens for a fact because I was “Foreign languages rude” myself. And “Chemistry rude.” And “Music appreciation rude” and Pre-calculus rude,” too.

So if a New Yorker is brusque with you for no apparent reason, don’t get angry or get your feelings hurt. Just remember, it’s not you. They are just being “math rude.”

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