Current Thoughts (Mostly Hawaii)

Pushing the White House off the front pages

Since the election of (now) President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, a few friends have come around to ask me what I think will happen post-inauguration.

(Inauguration happened on January 20, 2021, by the way, without any undue drama, just for the record).

Of course, the pundits out there have been predicting all kinds of things. Everything from first day actions (executive orders on all kinds of key items of the administration) to just the overall exhaling from about half the country that the administration of former President Donald Trump is now that, former.

I have predicted, to answer this question, something bolder than just signing executive orders or the repeated call for unity during this “uncivil war” (nice wordplay there, by the way).

That bold vision is simply this – take whatever is happening at the White House (and Congress if he can) off the front pages of the news. I suspect that the new President, in his folksier ways, plans to reverse the concentration of interest on whatever his office is saying, in the news.

Joe Biden
Putting the bullhorn down and toning down the political noise may be the best thing this President can do now he is in.
“Joe Biden” by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

This prediction has some necessary benefits to all of us. It stops the constant chasing of the tail of our news people on whatever breathless statement the President has to say that day. Trump relished in dragging the tail of the media dog around with every Tweet or every off-the-script, off-the-cuff statement made in his rambling speeches.

And in many ways, not only did he drag the media’s tail, but just about every American as we got lugged into discussing the latest off-the-wall tweet that made front-page news.

That constant attention to reporting on what I considered a lot of times “noise with no substance” to be overall detrimental to the mentality that Americans have to their government. Because if you are forced to concentrate on everything said, even if it is nonsense like it was at times from the Trump Administration, you are unable to sift through that noise to figure out what is going on.

What it led to was leaving novice armchair political pundits to make guesses as to what the President was doing. I would hear more often than not the whole “5-dimensional chess-game” analogy in which Trump was playing at a higher level than everyone else.

Considering that I didn’t have a more compelling reason (because saying Trump was an idiot to people who thought he was playing 5-D chess was not a valid reason to Trump supporters) I just said “sure”.

This cooling down of politics-as-the-only-news will also have benefits to Americans who are looking for a mental foundation to stand on going forward. While some who read this who are Right-leaning will disagree, the vast majority of Americans are not particularly concerned about what happens in the White House that day, but more about whether they can afford the basic things of life – a home, food, transportation.

We can see an example of that in Hawai‘i politics right now, with the new administration of Rick Blangiardi as Mayor of Honolulu.

O'ahu - Honolulu - Capitol District: Honolulu Hale
If President Biden is looking for how to keep the political noise down, maybe he should call on Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi for advice.
“O’ahu – Honolulu – Capitol District: Honolulu Hale” by wallyg is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

When the new Mayor came into office on January 2, the constant press conferences that were held by the former Mayor, Kirk Caldwell, ceased almost entirely. Since he came in, Mayor Blangiardi has held one “informal Q&A” with the media and one announcement about new housing opportunities in Honolulu.

This silence of the political microphone, in these times, has been seen by pundits here in Hawai‘i as a general breath of fresh air in these uncertain times. It turns out our new Mayor adheres to a philosophy of speak when you have something important to say. The former mayoral administration was of the mindset that it had to still say something, even though what was said, in the end, amounted to very little.

As with the Mayor of Honolulu, the benefits of keeping the White House off the front page, to let people get back to what they were doing, will help in the long run to recharge our civic verve as we move from crisis to rebuilding.

That is the prediction I have been telling people. Let’s see if Biden/Harris actually does that. We can only hope.

Crossing the line and paying the price

I remember in the culture I grew up in that there were both explicit and implicit “lines” that, once you crossed, you could never go back.

DANGER DO NOT CROSS THE BARRIER. KEEP HANDS AWAY
While society got rid of a lot of these “lines” in the last 25 years, there are still firm lines that if you cross in this society, you will get punished for it, still.
PC:“DANGER DO NOT CROSS THE BARRIER. KEEP HANDS AWAY” by Leo Reynolds is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

These lines were in the form of rules, dictums, and adhering to social norms. Some of these rules were challenged at times. And when they were, you would hear the “establishment” come out and tell you something to the effect that you were “skating on thin ice”.

More than once, I would hear that line from my father, which would be the signal that I needed to either back-off, change tactics, or just shut the heck up.

Those lines became less defined, especially in the last 25 or so years as so much of the social, political, and business cultures and norms changed. What was once taboo mere years ago is now mainstream. What would have been shocking and denounced in the past, now we shrug our shoulders and say “meh, okay.”

And for a long while, our society in America has been running along with not a care of what lines they were crossing, with the reaction being everything from not caring to cheerlead the breaking of yet another cultural norm or societal rule.

While this was happening, another more nefarious action started to emerge in which when the rules were broken, the people that were breaking them would receive little rebuke with no one holding them accountable. It was the equivalent of a person walking into Waterford Crystal, taking the most expensive piece there and throwing it on the ground, shattering it into a million pieces. And then simply walking out of the store with no one even saying “hey, come back”.

Because of all this, we have a good subset of our population, today, who does not even understand what accountability is. And when accountability is demanded by a group (for instance, the #metoo movement), it is not seen as a call out of bad behavior but seen as a campaign to “cancel” out people and destroy peoples reputations based solely on a non-adjudicated accusation.

US Capitol
Saying you want to, and then actually participating in the ransacking of Congress because you don’t like what they are doing, are two different actions, one is dismissed, the other is punished, as it turns out
PC: “US Capitol” by Mark Fischer is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Some members of that subset of the population were on hand in Washington DC on January 6 when the President of the United States and his supporters riled up a crowd to march on the Capitol Building and ransack it.

I am sure that many of them, taking selfies, causing destruction, and stealing property, were all of the mindset that “nothing is going to happen to me”. While some may not have cared what happened to them (the “nothing to lose” sect), by and large, the actions of many denoted their attitude.

Funny thing though when one decides to cause mayhem in the Capitol Building in Washington, resulting in the deaths of 5 people including a Capitol police officer…. the long arm of accountability suddenly rises and starts picking off those involved, throwing them into jail, and starting the process of interrogating them.

This rise of holding people accountable for what happened in Washington DC on that day is not a “cancel culture” move, and anyone adhering to that thinking should look in the mirror and check themselves before continuing to say that.

Accountability culture has awakened, because the President and his supporters, using social media as the information delivery device, told his people to cross a line which the American people still keep as a bright, red line. That line being “don’t mess with the peoples’ house”.

This culture, to hold accountable those that crossed that line, looks like it’s going to be absolute and wide ranging. I would caution friends reading this piece that those who are celebrating the raiding of the Capitol and those who are adhering to the ideas that “Q-Anon” and the Alt-Right is promoting to be careful. Already you see a narrative that is being created that places all of these into the “we disagree” bin, and with agreement by a majority, will allow the unleashing of the long arm of the law on them.

And for those who are in these camps, they who are still thinking that your still innocent by just putting your thoughts online…decrying the suspension of the President’s accounts for instance…please also be careful. Because while you may think you are simply putting out a thought, those thoughts are going to be read by others that may change the trajectory of your life.

Frankly, having anyone who is affected by this who are, by and large, more spectators than participants in it, would just increase the circle of woe that the actions of 1-6-2021 has and will cause to our nation and its people.

A fight to the end

Ballot box
While we all voted on November 3, the official results took the rest of the month and half of December. Typically the projected loser cedes by now….not Trump.
PC: “Ballot box” by FutUndBeidl is licensed under CC BY 2.0

From the day of the election of President, to today (December 14, 2020), I have been reluctant to formally comment on the outcome. However, with the passing of the 14th, and the Electoral College formally stating their choices, it’s now the time when one can intelligently opine on the result.

Joe Biden, former Senator and Vice President of the United States, will become the 46th President of the nation. My conservative friends might chime in at this point and say “but wait, the Congress will be counting the Electoral College votes on January 6th and, and, and, Representative Jo Jordan or Mo Brooks is going to put up objections to the voters.”

They will also say “If Jordan or Brooks and then a Republican Senator agree to objections, then we get chance!”.

If you read this primer on what could happen next, you will find that the chances of Congress overturning any Electoral College vote is microscopically thin. Never say never, but I wouldn’t put my money on odds that long.

So, with that, it may be time to start stating what just happened over the month and one-half of noise, lawsuits, and posturing, into perspective.

From day one, meaning right after election day, I told my friends who’d ask that the election won’t be done on November 3 or even a week after that. Two things were at play here. First was the fact that most of the states were just figuring out how to process mail-in voting, and some states like Pennsylvania, they needed a lot of time to process the ballots that came in.

Second, everyone who paid attention to what was being said knew that President Donald Trump was not going to accept the results. He was going to fight to the bitter end in the courts to try and have votes and results “adjusted” based on purported proof his legal team could come up with.

On the second point, I told people “all Trump and his team have to do is get one judge to agree that one point in their complaint was worth pursuing, and that’s when we are off to the races”. After all, this is Donald Trump, he was going to get the best lawyers to come up with game-changing arguments.

And if not that, the “X-factor” of whether the US Supreme Court, in the end, would rule in his favor was also up in the air. After all, according to the pundits, the court flipped from liberal to conservative with the appointment of 3 Supreme Court justices during Trump’s term.

With these factors at play, overlaying that with the nature of Trump – never surrender, always fight. And having that attitude egged on by the 40% or so of the electorate that was his supporters, I said that we won’t know the final result until everything is litigated out, which could be as late as the Electoral College.

And in general, I was right.

But let’s step back for a second and ask ourselves “was it right for Trump to drag this thing out, litigate it to the hilt and fight, fight, fight.” The answer to that question I will propose is “yes”.

United States Code Law Books
The Junior Chamber Creed has this line in it: “Government should be of laws rather than of men”. In this saga, the rule of law seems to have prevailed
PC:“United States Code Law Books” by Tony Webster is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Here is the thing, regardless of what you think of Trump and his administration, or even the idea of voting for president, the fact remains that the candidates have the right to challenge the results. Trump had that right, so did Biden if he so chose.   Most times the losing candidate for president, feeling his move will help unify the country, throws in the towel and concedes when they see that the results are what they are.

But Trump didn’t do that. And even though the lawsuits that his team came out with were, by and large, all dead on arrival when it came to actual proof to the courts, one thing is for sure is that the system allowed him to have his day(s) in court.

We as a people need to celebrate that, the fact that we at the end allowed Trump (or anyone for that matter) their right to litigate a result. It is the thing that makes America admired by others in other countries where one has no rights to litigate an issue. And if you tried, it might be you that is put in jail on trumped-up charges just to shut you up.   

Here, in America, we say “you lost”, maybe pat them on the back for fighting the good fight to the end, and then we swear in the winner on the 20th of January in Washington DC. 

Read past entries of Stan Fichtman and PoliticsHawaii.com!

What am I listening to?

These are the Podcasters that I am listening to, try them out!

Tim Pool (on YouTube)

Pod Save America (on YouTube)

Sargon of Akkad - Carl Benjamin (on YouTube)

Who am I reading/getting news from

I am very choosy as to where I get my news from, here are some dependable sources I refer to when reading up on topics

The Atlantic

CNBC

Civil Beat (Hawaii on-line newspaper)

Honolulu Star Advertiser (mostly paywalled, but you get free headlines)

Beat of Hawaii (Tourism based news source from Kauai)

Twitter Feed

Here are my current thoughts of things going on.

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