Contempt for the other side has little to do with policy

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It has almost become a cliché to state that we are living through unprecedented times. As Covid-19 continues its merciless resurgence, and the soon-to-be former president desperately tries to overturn a democratic election in what can only be described as a dictatorial coup attempt, it’s understandable that many of us would like to simply take a break from politics, unplug and unwind over the holidays as we hope for a return to relative normalcy under the incoming Biden administration.

Yeah… that would be nice, wouldn’t it?

Ousting the orange authoritarian was a big deal — an incredible amount of needless human suffering will likely be prevented as a result, and it may well have saved the project of constitutional democracy as we know it — but it isn’t necessarily going to put us back on track towards a more free, just, and prosperous future, given the damage that has already been done. …

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence

The Patterson-Gimlin “Bigfoot.” More credible than most of the president’s claims.

There’s a group of people I used to hold in contempt, for whom I now feel a higher degree of respect and sympathy. I’m talking about Bigfooters, or “Squatchers,” or whatever you want to call the folks who passionately hunt for the elusive cryptid. I owe them an apology.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still not a believer. In fact, I’m an obstinately skeptical person by nature. If I were walking through an old Civil War cemetery at night and suddenly saw a mustachioed Union commander standing before me, my first thought would be that I was hallucinating, not that I was actually witnessing the apparition of a dead soul. I used to have a framed, autographed picture of Agent Scully hanging in my bedroom (purely because I admired her skepticism, of course). …

If the latter isn’t settled, the former is irrelevant

Photo by Lucas Franco

The fundamental question Americans face at the ballot box this year is whether the United States should continue the project of liberal democracy, or if we should follow in the footsteps of Russia, Hungary, Venezuela, and other nations run by authoritarian strongmen. I sincerely wish this were an exaggeration. Unfortunately, the Trump presidency has only continued raising red flag after red flag. The world leaders Trump admires, and the policies he’s attempting to replicate, are overwhelmingly authoritarian.

In light of this, it’s time we started paying more attention to where our politicians sit on the liberal-authoritarian continuum, rather than how far “left” or “right” they happen to be. …

What really has a chilling effect on speech?

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Everyone has that one uncle…

There’s a term that originally comes from the field of social psychology, but has since been co-opted by right-wing internet people. The term is “virtue signaling.” It’s typically used to mean something like “political correctness,” or the act of being sanctimonious about a particular social issue so that one can feel morally or intellectually superior to others. While I can see why some people might find this kind of thing annoying, I tend to worry much more about the opposite extreme, or what I guess you’d call “malice signaling.”

This is the act of being the most obnoxious, mean-spirited jerk you can possibly be, going out of your way to offend people and hurt their feelings, mostly online. Why? Maybe just for the hell of it. Maybe out of genuine prejudice and resentment towards others. Maybe because it makes insecure men feel like tough guys (and yes, it is mostly guys who do this). …

Vote for the one who will do the most good

A person who plans to raise your living standards (left) and a person who plans to lower them (right). (Source: AP)

What if the way we’ve been conditioned to judge presidential candidates is all wrong?

U.S. presidential politics leans heavily on personality. This fact was on gross display during the last debate (if you can even call it that), where an old man and a preteen boy in an old man’s body rambled, yelled, and scoffed at each other for 90 minutes while hardly saying anything of substance. Joe Biden was able to land a few rhetorical jabs on the president. But why does this matter?

There are understandable reasons why someone might not love Joe Biden the man. Despite his campaign’s consistent efforts to portray him as the epitome of wholesome decency and integrity, there’s still no getting away from the fact that he is a career politician with a mixed record, both in terms of politics and personal character. …

When people need help fast, ideological fervor falls by the wayside.

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Here we are, in the midst of a global pandemic, trying to convince people to take precautions for the sake of public health. Unfortunately, we’re living in a society where proven statements of fact — the earth is spherical, vaccines don’t cause autism, humans are primates, anthropogenic climate change is happening, etc. — have been politicized, and putting trust in experts is decried as “elitist.”

Once this happens, when public trust erodes and factual statements are seen as signals of tribal identity, trying to persuade people often becomes counterproductive. …

The Democrats have finally embraced social democracy

When Bernie Sanders launched his first presidential campaign back in 2015, he told one of his supporters, “I’m not doing this believing I’m going to be the next president. I’m doing this believing we can build a movement.” Along those lines, Sanders has been extremely successful. For all the exasperation among internet leftists that Joe Biden could well be the 2020 nominee, a quick look at Biden’s platform will reveal just how influential Sanders’s insurgent movement has been. Joe Biden, the quintessential moderate Democrat, is now running on a platform that includes:

A plea for the “or bust” voters to examine the facts

Bernie Sanders is a smart guy. He has, on multiple occasions, promised to support whoever the eventual Democratic nominee for president ends up being, just as he did in 2016. This is most certainly because he understands what is at stake. For all of his (mostly valid) critiques of the Democratic Party establishment, it is abundantly clear that even the most establishmentarian Democrats in the race are many orders of magnitude better than Donald Trump on policy.

Unfortunately, policy does not seem to matter as much as it should for a particular cohort of possible voters. Having apparently learned the wrong lessons from Trump’s narrow 2016 victory, some diehard Sanders supporters are still ignoring their hero’s advice and discouraging their comrades from voting “blue no matter who.” …

According to many other developed countries, hybrid systems do pretty well.

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Health care is a really complex issue. Some politicians and pundits like to insist that it’s simple, that “every other country” just figured it out at some point, and the only things holding the US back are a lack of political will and the power of corporate greed. While it is true that most developed countries besides the US have invested in some form of universal health care, the models vary from country to country, with some favoring single-payer systems and others sticking with multi-payer systems.

One of the most publicized rifts between the “establishment” wing of the Democratic Party and the left-populist wing is the disagreement over which type of health care system to pursue. Some on the left have brazenly declared that anything short of the most comprehensive single-payer system in the world would amount to a worthless half-measure. To advocate for anything less, some of them say, must literally mean that you want people to die. …

There are moderate, progressive, conservative, and libertarian arguments for either of them

Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders. AFP; Getty Images

Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders are the top contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination. Biden, they say, represents the long-dominant moderate wing of the party, while Sanders represents the growing progressive wing.

By now, many of us are familiar with the standard progressive argument for Sanders and the standard pragmatist argument for Biden. What I would like to present here are some less commonly discussed cases for both of them, from different ideological perspectives. …


Chris Dobro

Volunteer organizer. Humanist. Pragmatist. Public health advocate. Global citizen. Living that ADHD life. Part of the Greatest Generation (Millennial).

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