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Divided Americans: ‘We have to find a way to live together’

U of M professor and marriage counselor Bill Doherty
MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh
Bill Doherty: "I have only a certain amount of outrage a day I will allow myself, without being consumed by it."

As a family therapist who specializes in divorce and couples counseling, University of Minnesota professor Bill Doherty may be singularly qualified to weigh in on the Divided States of America at the dawn of a Donald Trump presidency. In July, Doherty launched his online think tank Citizen Therapists Against Trumpism, whose Facebook group has more than 1,800 subscribers and has drawn attention from the Nation, the New York Times, the Huffington Post, CNN and more.  

As Americans everywhere try to figure out how to deal personally and politically with the prospect of a 2017 President Donald Trump, Doherty continues to do deep dives into what makes the populace tick and why we find ourselves where we find ourselves. MinnPost sat down with Doherty at a coffee shop across the street from his St. Paul campus office to talk about the times we find ourselves in.

MinnPost: What correlation do you see between the country and divorcing couples now?

Bill Doherty: What I know from dealing with couples is that they’re not going to improve if they have a problem unless each person acknowledges some contribution to the polarization, to the demoralization. It’s never just one person, it’s both. So with this polarization, I try to understand the other side, and you keep working until you get it. But we hardly ever get there. The other thing is that the identity politics that has been part of the liberal left has led to polarization, and we have to get past that. So the new organization I’m starting for therapists is going to be called Citizen Therapists for Democracy, because part of democracy is naming and calling out anti-democratic ideologies and practices. But the other part of it is creating opportunities for grass-roots democracies to be revived.

MP: What are your plans for Citizen Therapists Against Trumpism?

BD: That will be folded soon. The new organization will be up and running by inauguration day. There are 18,000 [members] in the Facebook group for Citizen Therapists Against Trumpism, and that will go on, unmonitored, for people who want to talk about Trump, and that’s fine, but this new organization will be broader. I wish that other professions would organize similarly, to do a deep dive about what their profession can contribute right now. I know journalism is going through a lot of soul-searching.

MP: That’s one word for it. I know I’m much more aware of my blind spots these days.

BD: We have to find a way to live together.  And part of what I’m doing is I have only a certain amount of outrage a day I will allow myself, without being consumed by it. So I’m going to reserve it for the worst stuff, I’m not going to use it for every Trump appointment or every tweet. I’m not going to go, “Isn’t that awful, isn’t that disgusting” about everything he does, because if I do, he controls us. He controls the media. I will note it, but I will save my moral indignation for later because that is an important human emotion, but if it’s 60 percent of my day, that hurts me and does no good and it gives him more power to poke our emotions.

MP: For my readers and myself, I’m looking for guidance in this strange new landIt’s so volatile and so toxic for the soul and human spirit at the moment, and you’ve been delving into this splitting of the country and, if such a thing has ever even existed or can exist now, healing. On a real level, I want to talk about Citizen Therapists Against Trumpism, and survival skills for this unprecedented malaise. What have you been chewing on since November 8?

BD: I’ll tell you what I’m doing this weekend. I’m flying to Ohio to co-facilitate a weekend between 10 Trump supporters and 10 Hillary supporters who live in a small town outside of Cincinnati as part of a project called The Better Angels Project, which started in New York City a couple years ago by a colleague of mine to try and depolarize America, and it’s needed even more now. 

We’re in a time when we have to combine, I think, resistance to this ideology, philosophy, way of undermining democracy that I’m calling Trumpism, which of course is a worldwide phenomenon now in Europe and India and places like that. So we have to call out and resist, but at the same time try to restore basic elements of democracy. I think of democracy as a collective agency, a collective ability to come together across differences and solve problems and figure out how to do a life together. That, for me, is what democracy is and then electoral democracy is one particular aspect of it, and the big threat at the moment is to democracy

So there are a lot of people who have supported Donald Trump’s anti-democratic way of leadership. I don’t know if they understood it or knew all the implications of it, but that’s really what it is.

MP: As a soulful person who has studied this stuff, how do we go forward as individuals in this creeping nondemocracy? People are waking up every day with that question. Do you have anything close to answers?

BD: We’re used to dealing with personal stress, but this is a public stress. In a simple way – this is the psychologist and therapist in me – there are stressors and there are two ways we know how to cope with that. One is what’s called “passive coping” or what I call “buffering coping.” How do I buffer myself from this? My wife has been feeling it, and is not reading certain things. She reads the headline, but not the article, and a lot of us during the election were doing CNN and MSNBC every day, and you can limit the access and decide in your marriage or with your best friend, that if you’re talking 80 percent of your conversation is concerned with what Trump is doing, you can decide to limit that, or have “Trump-free zones” or “Trump-free time.” It’s a way to maintain your equilibrium and you don’t let Trump and what he stands for invade your personal life. You limit the incursion.

The other way of coping is “active coping,” and that tends to be, for a lot of people, necessary, and that is doing something that actively pushes back, resists, and does something to express your values. And that’s what these safety pins have been all about. 

MP: It doesn’t seem like nearly enough.

BD: One of the things I’ve been doing to cope is I’m reading whatever I can to try and understand Trump supporters, so that I have a more coherent way of understanding it that is not just based on “they’re yahoos or ignoramuses or bigots.” I think that there are some political operatives that you could characterize that way, but not 62 million people. Those are some of the things I’ve done, along with my leadership work, and that’s something people can do. The extent to which people take action, they feel better.

MP: In the days after the election I very much felt like a chump, the way this reality TV show had played out and I’d been sucked into the political cycle and having it mean so much to my life, when in fact it doesn’t. Does it? Of course. But I have had to stay up here and above this in order to not have my very spirit dragged down. Is that a legitimate way to be?

BD: It’s a form of coping. It’s a way of saying, “I’m not going to let this take over my life. I’m not going to exaggerate the personal effect” — because that’s what some people do. I led a workshop last week for 30 parents on how to talk to kids about Trump and his supporters, and there was a parent there who talked about how she doesn’t feel personally safe. She’s an upper-middle-class professional woman, white, and this is not about personal safety. It really isn’t, but if she allows herself to feel this way she’s going to be consumed. 

So it is a way to cope. There’s a threat, and we have to try to assess the threat, realistically. For some of us, the threat is greater to the country and to our children’s and grandchildren’s future than it is to us. I’m not very much threatened by this. For instance, Trump is not going to throw me in jail for what I’m doing. I mean, there are certain limits. I believe that will not happen. I assess that threat as very, very small. I assess the threat as not a realistic one for me. If I was an undocumented immigrant, that would be a different threat.

MP: The collective whole, though, and the oneness that is humanity — we feel all of that for the immigrant, and so the threat truly is against us.

BD: Yes, yes, it is us. That’s right, and what I think is ineffective as a citizen is just to say, “It’s got nothing to do with me.” I understand that someone might have to go there because they’re overwhelmed, but I think that’s a way of coping that I don’t think is good for the country, and I think it’s a denial. 

MP: As a psychologist, you must see all sorts of manifestations of human behavior coming to the fore with this looming Trump presidency.

BD: Yes, and I’m hearing a lot from people who are having interpersonal problems because of this, from being disinvited to Thanksgiving dinners and more. It’s been really widespread. I mean, 9/11 was nothing like this. It pales in comparison, because 9/11 divided us over time, but at the time we’d been attacked and we were mostly in the same emotional state and a coming together. Now there’s this polarization, and it’s amazing how it’s affecting families.

The last true political diversity in America is in extended families. It’s not in neighborhoods, it’s not in communities, it’s not even in work settings, because people tend to have blue and red work settings, but you go enough links out of your family, and you get people who think very differently about politics. And they come together and how do you manage it?

MP: For me it has been dispiriting to get this widespread glimpse into humanity and to see the truth of our neighbors, and what suckers we all are. That has been depressing.

BD: It depends on what you see as the truth. I agree that there are depressing aspects of it, but that’s what I mean by trying to understand where Trump supporters, many of them, are coming from. There was a book that was very helpful to me during the campaign and even more helpful now that Trump won, called “Strangers in Their Own Land” by Arlie Hochschild, a prominent sociologist whose work I’ve read for years. She spent five years going back and forth between two heavily polluted counties in Louisiana that had massive job loss and were hubs of the Tea Party. And her goal was to try and understand how they could hate the Environmental Protection Agency and be supportive of the petroleum industry.

MP: There’s a brainwashing that goes on.

BD: Well, she went through the various explanations that outsiders give and that’s one. But her goal was to try and understand what she calls their “deep story” as they experience it. And she finally, after two years, came up with a metaphor that they all said about, “Yeah, you got it.” And here was the metaphor: These folks have been standing in line for the American Dream for a long time and the American Dream is receding out there, things have been really hard, and other people less deserving haven’t been in line as long and they’re being put in line ahead of them by the federal government. So it’s immigrants, blacks, women if you’re a man, the whole affirmative action thing, and the federal government is advocating for these other people and the American Dream is even further out.

And their [distrust] for the American government is just … She asked people “What percentage of the American workforce do you think work for the federal government?” She looked up the numbers. It’s one and a half percent, two and a half percent if you add the military. The average answer was 40 percent. People thought that 40 percent of the American workforce work for the government. So you have all of this misinformation about the government, and you have this tremendous sense of unfairness, particularly from the white working class, about these people cutting in line who are being sponsored in line by the federal government. And then Trump comes along and says, “I’m with you. You’ve been getting screwed. Those guys are doing it.”

She went to a Trump rally and she wrote it almost like a novel. It was this feeling of, “Well all these other people have a movement. The black civil rights movement, the American Indians, and the federal government is all behind them and they’re stopping us and making life harder for us.” And along comes somebody who is a success story in America who is saying, “Follow me and I’ll restore your dignity.” Of course, that’s not everybody. My job, as a couples therapist, is to try and understand each person’s perspective. If I can’t get that, I can’t help them.

MP: I’ve been astounded at the lengths people all across the spectrum have allowed themselves to be governed by this election, by the federal government. Does that enter into your work at all? Meaning, it’s incredible, as sentient beings moving through this world, how much worth we give all of this. Is this it? Is this our lot? Our existence? Proletariats have done it since the beginning of time, and I understand that, but I’m left thinking that for the foreseeable future we’re left to hand-wring over our government and that’s it? To survive and keep my head on straight I have to fly above it, and I’m sure it’s a defense mechanism, but … I need help, doc.

BD: I recommend listening to Rush Limbaugh 10 minutes a day as a spiritual practice for progressives. Here is where the empathy comes in. A couple weeks ago I heard Limbaugh say, “Obama and his people, these liberals, they don’t believe you know how to run your own life. They think you’re stupid. They think you’re yahoos. They think they know better, and in fact what they want to do is make your decisions for you. They want to have all these regulations because they think you’re too stupid and you don’t know how to handle your freedoms.”

MP: Where is the critical thinking that goes, “Rush Limbaugh is telling me this?” I don’t look down on anyone, but when I see ignorance and hate I will call it what it is.

BD: A lot of these people are not haters. But did they feel a tremendous loss of the world that they’d grown up in, and a loss of opportunity for them in the country? Huge. And when there’s a big group of people feeling that loss, what we humans do is look for who caused it. And then if someone comes along with a simple explanation, it’s very potent. But we shouldn’t psychologize it. This is a sociological phenomenon. A group, a tribal [phenomenon], and to psychologize it is to single out individuals as “haters” and that’s when we start to disdain our fellow citizens and feel morally and intellectually superior and we play into the same dynamic, and they sense it.

MP: I’ve tried and been determined to stay open-minded and open-hearted through all this, but the pervasive group-think shuts me down.

BD: We are powerfully social creatures. We are tribal, in order to survive. We evolved in clans – anthropologists say 100 to 150 [members make up a clan] – that’s what our genes are set up to really trust. Hard to trust in a mass society, and we sort of keep learning to do it.

But we’re not really set up for that, and we’re easily demagogued and the Other out there is perceived as a threat — the Other is getting in line in front of us, and I don’t think liberals take that into account as much, because liberals favor individualism, and when it comes to political things, most liberals line up behind 95 percent of the same policies and live in that tribe.

MP: Where’s the hope in all this?

BD: This gives me hope: I just came from South High, where I’m the coach for a project with young black male high school students who are working to improve their relationships with teachers. They’re interviewing teachers and asking them, “How can we improve our relationship with you as young black men so we can be more academically successful?” It’s part of the same idea. These are difficult relationships, because the teachers come with implicit bias and all that stuff, but they bought the idea that if you want to change the relationship, you go first – instead of sitting back and saying, “You get over your implicit bias.”

So they laid out the values they want to bring to the relationships with teachers, and ask the teachers, “How can we better live up to this?” and the teachers go, “Oh my god.” You know, it’s difficult, but it can work. 

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the number of subscribers on Citizen Therapists Against Trumpism's Facebook page.

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Comments (95)

United We Divide

We already have a common ground that both sides can meet together. It's

-Treating people decently
-Don't discriminate
-Don't demonize

Everything else flows from there.

Common ground

Respect every one.

Fascinating

Jim,
I am assuming you are an Urban Liberal, so your questions, thoughts and feelings were even more interesting to me than Professor Doherty's answers. I realize that things are going to be a bit abnormal and bumpy for the next 4 years, but I can not understand the deep level of fear that legal citizens of the USA are expressing.

I think like the Professor, so his responses made balanced sense to me. And after all the bashing of the Trump supporters, it was nice to hear a voice of reason. Thank you.

Like the republicans

Treated the present President in the Congress, the south and the tea party? I see more to come in this "election".

True

The far right sure did dislike Obama, and worked to stop his proposed tax/ spending increases and illegal immigrant amnesty. And yet I did not get the same sense of fear, dread and/or anxiety from the Conservatives. I don't remember them setting up crying rooms, cancelling classes, etc.

Mostly they just complained about his perceived "executive over reach" and the downsides of ACA. I just don't remember folks using so many nasty labels to describe the people who voted for him either.

It will be interesting to see if the folks on the Left mellow out or if they keep this level of intensity and anxiety going for 4 years. For their sake I hope they are just working through the 5 stages of grief, and their anxiety will decrease sooner than later.

Are You New Here?

"And yet I did not get the same sense of fear, dread and/or anxiety from the Conservatives. I don't remember them setting up crying rooms, cancelling classes, etc." I do remember hearing of parents having a fit because their children's classes would watch the inauguration in school. I do remember the barrage of litigation, of impeachment threats, of breaches of congressional decorum, of openly racist imagery, etc., etc. A certain President-elect spent a lot of time promoting the utterly false idea that President Obama was not born in the US. These were more than polite discussions about perceived executive overreach or the disadvantages of the President's signature policy achievement. This was a constant effort to thwart the President at every turn (no hearings on a Supreme Court nominee? Vowing in 2009 to make him a "one-term" President?).

"I just don't remember folks using so many nasty labels to describe the people who voted for him either." "Sheeple" or "libtard" come to mind. Who was the Minnesota Republican leader who referred to Democrats as "un-American?"

PS Both sides do not do it; at least, not to the same level or intensity.

Sheeple

Per Steve's comment, it seems sheeple is used by both sides. :-)

And I have never heard of "libtard" before. But I have heard a lot of the following: bigot, xenophobe, misogynist, facists, deplorable, stupid, irredeemable, monsters, authoritarian, anti-democratic, etc.

Unfortunately sitting Presidents as public figures are fair game. I am sure Trump will be called many things.... And working to defeat the opponents agenda and get yours passed is the name of the game.

You Must Not Get Out Much

Sitting Presidents are indeed "fair game," however, the level of vitriol leveled against President Obama goes beyond anything we have seen in the last 100+ years.

There is a distinction between "working to defeat your opponent's agenda" and "working to get your agenda passed." It's called compromise, and I no longer have any interest in responding to the fact that the ACA had no Republican votes. If they had been interested in working with, rather than against, the President, perhaps they could have had some input. Instead, their focus on his defeat from the first day of his administration means they weren't interested in passing even a part of their agenda. It was an atavistic urge to crush an enemy.

Bush

Now you must have forgotten all the terrible things that folks wrote and said about Bush, insisting that he lied to get us into a war... I am sorry, both sides do it. I was just discussing this with a co-worker who thought Liberals do it more. I proposed the possibility that Liberals may be more emotional and therefore they do it with more passion. I mean that is part of why they support the Liberal agenda. (ie empathy, feelings, etc)

It will be interesting if the Trump bashing will continue at it's current intense level for the next 4 years. Or if cooler heads will prevail.

Oh, Lordy, Not Again!

"Now you must have forgotten all the terrible things that folks wrote and said about Bush, insisting that he lied to get us into a war . . ."

1. You must have forgotten that, when all is said and done, he did.

2. You can hardly compare a few "Bush=Hitler" signs held by protesters to the campaign of contempt and rank obstructionism unleashed by the Republicans.

3. You may not recall the counter-attacks on any prominent person who dared disagree with the Bush administration. Ask the Dixie Chicks--they might know a few anecdotes.

Lied

1. Actually, no one except Bush himself will ever know if lied. Since we have no way to know what he believed to be the truth at that point in time. And given his character, I think he believed what he was saying. He may have been naive, but I think he was honest.

2. Perceptions

3. As for the Dixie Chicks... If your customer base are a bunch of country folk, never insult a Conservative President to a bunch of foreigners. That was just a bad business decision.

Pants on Fire!

1. Is a lie any less a lie because a person thinks/wants it to be true? When, say, a thoroughgoing narcissist can deny saying something he is recorded as saying, is irt any less a lie because he is incapable of telling the truth?

2. You're absolutely right, I forgot the eight years of refusal to move legislation, the government shutdowns, and the widespread efforts, tolerated if not endorsed by the national party,. to deny the constitutional legitimacy of the Bush presidency. Or did that happen to someone else? I get confused, because Both Sides Do It.

3. Speaking one's mind is a "bad business decision?" If pickets outside the new Hobby Lobby in Minnesota resulted in a loss of business for them would you shrug it off as a "bad business decision?"

Easy

We see a group, conservatives, whose entire worldview is based on the notion that the only means by which motivation can be created is through negative reinforcement (ie punish bad behavior). We also see through various means, (personal contacts, the media, forums like this one) that these same conservatives find nearly aspect of the way we liberals choose to live our lives to be the paramount example of this bad behavior. Is it not natural then to surmise that given their now nearly unlimited scope of power that among conservatives first orders of business will be the punishment of we liberals, who so many conservatives consider little more than enemy combatants? Why in the world should we assume that folks whose lives and ambitions are so utterly different and vastly opposed to our own will act in good faith when given the opportunity to do otherwise. It's quite obvious, from the vitiriol of the last 8 years that conservatives certainly don't hold that to be true of folks like me. Quite simply put, we don't trust you, we already know your chosen leadership plans to dismantle much that we hold dear, things that will negatively impact us and people we care about, and we think you enjoy doing it, out of spite. That clear things up a bit?

Actually

Actually, Conservatives believe that the best motivation is attained by allowing citizens to keep more of the income they earn through their work, creativity, investments, etc.

Now if you are a citizen who is motivated by paying more taxes, you may have a right to be concerned.

No

That's what they tell themselves, to assuage what remains of their conscience. Think about policy, what are conservative solutions to healthcare? Punish the poor, the sick, the unemployed by making health insurance unattainable. Why? To encourage work for any wage. Poverty? Take way any and all safety net, for all but those deemed hopeless enough that any revocation would result in life threatening circumstances. Why? To encourage work at any wage, regardless whether it alleviates poverty or not. Education (from your own description) punish parents for poor lifestyle choices even to the point of taking their children away. Why? To encourage children to mold themselves into model employees to work for any wage, whether they want to or not.
Keeping more of what you earn s a concern only to those for whom it makes a difference, mainly the wealthy conservative and those who have been convinced to do their bidding. To the rest of us, the world is more complex.
The biggest difference is that conservatives are concerned only with self, and at best expand this to include extensions of self like family. We liberals prefer to look at the needs of others before our own, and recognize that societal problem cannot be solved by individual decisions. I know you think things like charity are a panacea to all the world's ills, (at least the ones you choose to concern yourself with) but this is a worldview incompatible with reality.
There can be no coexistence when one group fundamentally denies the reality of the other, and actively seeks to subvert it to make their reality the only one accepted.

To Fascinating and others

The resaon for my fears are that I see many drastic, negative changes that are going to be for all intents and purposes irrevocable. When the environment is damaged it is forever. When long battled for worker rights and benefits are gone they are likely gone forever in this political climate. Consumer protections will be weakened for food and drugs. Less regulation for corporations will distill even more wealth to the top small percent of the population (this has been happening for 40 years and in my opinion is the number one problem overall in the US). The corporations already make and control US policy. We may already past the point of no return here but Trump and this Republican/Conservative control of both houses will certainly destroy our chances of ever getting control back of our government.
These are just a few of the reasons I am fearful, upset, and disappointed.

Living together

So, Jim: How does rhetoric like this promote living together?

"Well, the sheeple finally have their Tea Party czar who validates their dim-witted entertainment, misery-loving-company reality TV and endless televised talent shows, so now they can sit back in their La-Z-Boys and go full-on Wall-E and watch the stupidfest while the rest of us wake up every day and find a reason to believe and a reason to continue to make cool things."
--Jim Walsh, Southwest Journal, Nov. 29

Unfortunately we can't find a way to live together

Members of a society can dispute in good faith the best way to work toward shared goals and be true to shared principles. Indeed, that is the definition of engaged civic life. However, without shared goals and principles at a certain basic level, there cannot be a stable society.

What time has shown, and the election has punctuated, is that we do not in this society have shared goals and principles. There is a fundamental split on questions of how political, economic and social power should be distributed. A bare majority ascribes to principles of democracy, equal opportunity and tolerance, while a large plurality prefers authoritarianism and the ongoing concentration of prerogatives in a few. For structural reasons that are clear but well beyond the scope of a MinnPost colloquy, these two orientations have self-selected into the two major parties and their diasporae. It is not clear that this is the natural state of things, as extraordinary methods have been employed for at least my lifetime to cultivate the market for authoritarianism in all those susceptible to it. But innate vs. cultivated is of little meaning for the foreseeable future.

The split is not geographic or addressed by the secession of selected states; it remains however the lines may be drawn on the map. But the basis for a single nation and society that can work in good faith to manage challenges and create an environment in which members can live decent lives does not exist.

So

Do you truly believe that 62 million Americans "prefers authoritarianism and the ongoing concentration of prerogatives in a few"? Really?

Why again would this large group of people from all walks of want this?

Yes

That’s what Trump sold them quite clearly for a year, and that’s what they quite enthusiastically bought. Since November 9 he’s only doubled down, and there’s no evidence of any measurable buyers’ regret.

Why? Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It’s the original existential condition and the atavistic need. It’s much easier to pull folks down to “Safety and Security” at the bottom of the pyramid than to help them to climb toward “Self-Actualization” at the top. Nothing peculiar about the U.S. population - looking across the globe these days, it seems pretty universal.

Defined most concisely, the project of civilization is to lift a critical mass of humanity up to self-actualization and other-regarding behavior sufficiently to establish self-sustaining societies faster than demagogues, for their own purposes, can mire the population in existential fear for long enough to tear the whole thing apart. Sure looks like the demagogues are heading for victory.

Perspectives

There are definitely are 2 different philosophies at play here...

On the Left folks believe that self actualization is best attained by all citizens if they have government forcefully take from the successful and distribute the money to those seeking safety and shelter. Irrespective of the recipients efforts.

On the Right folks believe that self actualization is best attained through personal striving, learning and minimizing of the cost of government. And that successful people will help those who really want to grow / learn.

Personally I agree with the latter because self actualization is about much more than money. And unfortunately giving people "money for nothing" is the fastest way to stifle someone's personal growth. Just think of all the poor people who are truly happy and the rich people who are still miserable.

Would love to see your proof and the statistics

For your last sentence?! Especially with the temperature tonight. And your second to the last sentence:
It applies as well to rich kids in my opinion!

Self

Self Actualization: the achievement of one's full potential through creativity, independence, spontaneity, and a grasp of the real world.

Please note the word independence. not dependence is a key aspect. I am happy to and do support many programs that help people who really want to improve their lives. I just disagree with giving people money with no effort or improvement required on their part. I think it destroys their self esteem and sense of independence.

I agree one of my favorite books is the "The Ultimate Gift". It is the story of a wealthy spoiled young man who is taught very important life lessons.

What do you think most of

Outstate MN wants? Something for nothing?

"Whenever Richard Cory went down town . . ."

"Just think of all the poor people who are truly happy and the rich people who are still miserable." Actually, there is some correlation between wealth and happiness: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/how-happiness/201409/does-money-rea...

If you will pardon my saying so, "self actualization" sounds like the goal of an encounter group from the 70s (yes, I go back that far). I do understand what you mean by it, and I agree that, as you explain it, it is a worthwhile endeavor. However, I think you are dramatically overstating the perfidy of the Left and painting the Right in overly charitable terms.

I can't speak for the entire "Left," because it takes in such a diverse range of views (Clinton Democrats to Trotskyists) that saying what the "Left" believes is meaningless. Speaking for myself, I believe that getting too tangled up in ideology, and fretting about who should do what for whom, is counter-productive. Safety and shelter" are moral, if not legal, rights. Recognizing reality also recognizes that a recipient's best efforts will often prove unsuccessful. I will also say that there is no inherent virtue in either the public or private sector. There are things each does well, or better than the other.

The phrase "forcefully taking from the successful" makes me wonder if there is some superiority to the successful--or, more accurately, to the wealthy--that deserves deference. Are we allowed to consider how the successful got there? Is the third generation of inherited wealth (to save anyone the bother: e.g. the Daytons) deserving of that deference? How about the wealthy/successful businessman who uses dicey, albeit legal, means of making money?

As far as the "Right" goes, I have a hard time believing they are as uniform, and as uniformly charitable, as you characterize them. Do the fans of the late Russell Kirk care about anyone's "self actualization," especially since it isn't something that has been a concern for centuries? How about the attendees chanting "let him die" when asked what should happen to a person without medical insurance?

Maslow

I was just replying in like terms, and I agree that there is great variation in both sides. But can you agree with this simple summary.

One group wants government to take a lot of money from citizens so it can determine the "correct allocation" for every citizen regardless of their effort, behaviors, etc. (ie "safety and shelter are moral, if not legal, rights.")

The other group wants government to take less money from the citizens and to just provide general services and welfare to the truly disabled. They believe that the other poor people will be cared through local charities.

Please note that there are No White or Black Hats required. Both groups are made up of good people who just see the world differently.

"One group wants government to take a lot of money . . ."

The phrase "a lot of money" is judgment. If everyone's tax levy were $1 per year, there would be plenty of people to complain it was too much.

I prefer the term "an appropriate amount of money . . ."

T2

In 1907 the local, state and fed governments only collected and controlled ~7% of the USA GDP. In 2017 it will be ~37%.

That means citizens got to keep, spend, save, invest give away or do whatever they wanted to do with ~93% back in 1907. Whereas now they only have 63% to do that with.

My goal is that government should be able to get by with 33.3%. (ie 1/3)
That would give us citizens 66.7%. (ie 2/3)

What number do you want to aim for?

The Number

Any number other than either 0 or 100% is going to be arbitrary, so I see no point in listing one. The correct number is, "sufficient to meet current priorities."

Good

Excellent !!! Then you will be okay if the GOP changes the "current priorities", pushes governmental effectiveness / accountability and takes it back down to ~30%?

Nope

The GOP can say it changes "current priorities," but that doesn't eliminate the right/ability/duty of the rest of us to push back against that (privatizing Social Security is not going to be as popular as some might fantasize).

"[P]ushes governmental effectiveness / accountability . . ." First, "governmental effectiveness" would violate the Republican mantra that government is bad and ineffective, and must be drowned in the bathtub. Second, I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for a push for accountability under a Trump administration. Remember that the man lies as effortlessly as the rest of us breathe.

Total charitable intake

In 2015, was roughly 373 billion dollars. This includes everything, arts, disease research, soup kitchens, what have you. Contrast that with the CBO figures for healthcare expenditure alone by the Federal government, 1 trillion dollars for 2016. Just healthcare, no housing assistance, no childcare, no food stamps, nothing else. I'm sorry, but it just doesn't add up, I don't care HOW charitable you think people are, claiming that we should rely on charity is tantamount to saying "good luck, you're on your own", to hell with the consequences.

Effectiveness

You are correct that the Local, State and Federal government take $1+ trillion dollars from the Private sector to support the needy. This money is used to pay bureaucrats,, pay for buildings, pay for regulatory compliance, pay for case workers, etc, etc, etc. And unfortunately we still have a lot of poverty and kids in need.
http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/welfare_spending

I think charitable giving would increase greatly if that trillion plus dollars stayed in the pockets of citizens who can more effectively help their neighbors and avoid bureaucratic waste.

Good deal!

So we can expect an elimination of all welfare? Great news: Most of it goes to red states anyway.
Can we also expect the elimination of federal subsidies for Farmers, Oil companies, handicapped, veterans, college students, home owners, special tax breaks for industry, medical device makers, short term capital gains, defense contractors, rich folks with trusts and endowments and special hedge funds?
Seems if you provide a special loop hole on one side is no different than writing a check on the other side! Cherry picking the poor and down trodden is an easy and very UN-christian adventure, what is rewarding is that, the choice is to do it at the height of the Christmas season, when our hearts should be going out, but hey "Scrooge" is an OK way to go if it suits you! "Bah humbug"

Simpler

I think many of us would like a simpler taxation system and remember where this discussion started.

"One group wants government to take a lot of money from citizens so it can determine the "correct allocation" for every citizen regardless of their effort, behaviors, etc. (ie "safety and shelter are moral, if not legal, rights.")

The other group wants government to take less money from the citizens and to just provide general services and welfare to the truly disabled. They believe that the other poor people will be cared through local charities."

By the way, I finished writing out my year end charity checks a few weeks ago. I agree with you that all of us should give generously of our own free will during this time of year !!! Ho Ho Ho !!!

So?

Simpler, may not accomplish anything other than the same result: Rich, richer poor, poorer, (What is in simpler?) One group? If we go back to the, original purpose, the Preamble, it isn't, we the individuals, its

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Now if we can't agree on the purpose we are all lost: Seems from this perspective its a we objective, how do you see it?
You say "truly disabled" evidently there is a value proposition there? So guys like Trump are truly disabled to avoid paying income Tax?

Why are you talking about

Mr. Haas, you said that “There can be no coexistence when one group fundamentally denies the reality of the other, and actively seeks to subvert it to make their reality the only one accepted.” Aren’t you describing Democrats now who deny reality of Trump’s voters? Aren’t Democrats seeking to subvert all conservative ideas with the help of the courts?

However, to answer your point comparing charity and government help, no one wants to stop all government help altogether. But don’t you agree that there should be ways to reduce waste? Don’t you think that there are some people who don’t deserve much help because they are not responsible and don’t make right choices?

Ask Mr. Applen

Its not matter of goverment money or not. Charity cannot be expected, nor should it, to pick up the slack for whatever it is conservatives feel needs to be cut. Therefore any loss of funding can be expected to result in a loss of the services that those dollars provide, as intended Pain must be inflicted to modify behavior, as is the case with all conservative objectives. I don't care what others choose to do with their lives, I care about its resultant impact on the society in which I live. Unlike conservatives, I don't believe pain to be a magic elixir, one that transforms the previously irresponsible to model citizenship, the previously uneducated to brilliance, or the previously ill to good health. It just makes such folks more destitute, more desperate, more financially insecure, and less able to ever become functional members of society. This leaves us poorer and poorer as a society as time rolls on. Perhaps you view a Dickensian dystopia as a model society, I view it as horror to be railed against as long as I draw breath.

It doesn't work

Mr. Haas, I do not think that anyone here suggested getting rid of all government programs intended to help people. However, your approach of providing help to everyone who asks and even those who don’t ask is a dangerous proposition because, due to human nature, it encourages relying on government help and discourages any positive personal development. Is that your goal? Socialism is based on that and it never worked.

Now, when you say that you “don't care what others choose to do with their lives,” and “care about its resultant impact on the society” in which you live, don’t you think that it’s selfish and doesn’t really show care for others? Is that the right way to raise the kids - by giving them everything they want and not asking for anything in return?

On the other hand, history shows that inflicting some pain may be helpful – after all, that is how the mankind progressed to where it is now. It will not produce brilliance or make people healthy; it will not even make irresponsible into model citizens… but it will make those irresponsible more responsible and will make them contribute something. After all, everyone wants to eat which is why people worked on Hoover Dam construction… and now they may work in the fields picking crop that farmers now claim they need to hire illegal immigrants for.

No

Depriving people of food makes them starve, period. Any further meaning attached to the activity is rationalization on the part of those doing the starving. You act as if socialism sprung forth in whole cloth from the ether of history. It was a response to the terrible conditions that preceded it. A world divided into socioeconomic castes, the rich in their castles, the poor in their tenements (those lucky enough to have homes at all). This is the world conservatives would return to, somehow believing that they will always be among the former, and that all whom they disdain the latter. You claim history as justification for your ideals while completely ignoring the actual history of what your ideals have wrought on human history. Well, we'll find out now, you have your Tsar, he's surrounded himself with his court of Lords and Ladys. What's old has become new again as it always seems to.

Example

The current systems and policies have led to 72% of Black infants living in single Parent homes. This leads to poverty, an academic achievement gap and more poverty.

In your model, how would you help this population of citizens to develop more 2 parent homes, improve academic capability, escape poverty, etc?

Per usual

Blacks have BEEN in poverty, basically since they were freed from slavery. As that poverty has endured family units have been under more pressure, hopelessness has taken root, and and things like a lack of education, job prospects, and drug use compound upon themselves. The problem is that conservatism cannot see poverty as a root cause for these things because it upends the notion of poverty as a personal, moral failing. Eliminate the poverty first, and your laundry list of ills goes away on its own. I won't bother with the driving forces behind the poverty as conservatives don't see them as problems and as such they cannot exist.

Do you know the way?

Mr. Haas, the problem is that the cure (socialism) was worse than the disease (capitalism before). And obviously, that capitalism corrected itself to be better… and now is going too far. You are correct, depriving people of food makes them starve… but no one is going to do it because no one is responsible for providing food to everyone in the first place.

As for eliminating poverty, do you know the way? American government has been trying it for 50 years with billions if not trillions spent and it is still almost exactly where it was in the beginning. What may be the problem? Maybe it is human nature….

Tell me

How "Capitalism" has "corrected" itself. I know conservatives like to anthropomorphize capitalism as some sentient beast, but really? Capitalism is at its base form simply a means of value exchange, with profit being the excess value exploited by one party from another. It has no means of correction, it is what it is. Political systems, ie Socialism, can act to set rules by which this value exchange takes place, mitigating the effects of the exploitation. In essence the excesses of capitalism are correctable only by the application of socialistic policy. This also works in the other direction as in the application of a conservative, Randian style political system serving to magnify the deleterious effects of a capitalistic system.

Capitalism can

Mr. Haas, capitalism has corrected itself by the means Henry Ford thought of that: In order to sell more cars, he needed people who can afford them. In order to exploit someone, there should be someone wanted to be exploited because it gives them good living. Sure, some regulations are necessary and in theory you may call all regulations “socialism” but socialism is an economic system, not political, because political part is based on economic model.

Exploited!

Not sure I have met people that wanted to be taken advantage of. They may be W/O other. or think they are W/O other options! ,

Sure you have...

You sure have met people who like being exploited because it is everyone who works for a living in a private sector! Including CEO’s and star athletes and celebrities who earn millions… because those who pay them those millions make even more millions.

T2

Please note that the disintegration of the Black family started at about the same time as the war on poverty began. In the 1960's only 20% of babies were born to unwed Mothers. In this case giving people money likely had some very negative consequences.

You MAY want to rethink this argument

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/01/13/whos-poor-in-america-50-...

Please note the relevant section on African American poverty rates... 41.8 % in 1966, 27.2 % in 2012. Tell me again how the disintegration of the black family is driving poverty...

Government definition:

The governing body of a nation, state, or community.
John seems you would prefer a government-less society! Forcibly, meaning what? taxes should be voluntarily, compiling to speeding laws should be voluntarily? etc. Laws are an extensions of norms. So be a bit more specific about which government norms we should get rid of. We know you detest, the "promote the general welfare" clause in the preamble.
PS. When it comes to taxes, your taxes are higher for all kinds of reasons, living in upscale neighborhoods, it costs more money to stay segregated form the less well off communities. Examples: properties in Kenwood, lake Calhoun etc, pay $20-40K a year in property tax, (they chose to live there) while folks in the less elite neighborhoods may pay $1500 a year? Similar can be said for suburban homes. Feel free to move to the inner city, and surprise your property taxes will drop significantly. If you don't think taxes should be based on value then what?

Maybe

Please remember that I am simply stating that there are 2 belief systems at work here. As the counselor says, people have to start talking instead of arguing. So can you answer the following question.

In 1907 the local, state and fed governments only collected and controlled ~7% of the USA GDP. In 2017 it will be ~37%.

That means citizens got to keep, spend, save, invest give away or do whatever they wanted to do with ~93% back in 1907. Whereas now they only have 63% to do that with.

My goal is that government should be able to get by with 33.3%. (ie 1/3)
That would give us citizens 66.7%. (ie 2/3) No big changes required...

What number do you want to aim for?

The one that gets the job done:

All conditions are not equal at all times? You go to war and? You have a recession/depression and? price of gas goes up or down, you have a bad year with hurricanes? You do more or less infrastructure investment? Revenues go up revenues go down? National emergencies arise, epidemics? Have you ever run and budgeted for a business, sometimes you get to hire and sometimes you have to layoff, sometimes you have to do more marketing, some times less, some times things go wrong and you have to conduct a product recall.

Times, life styles etc are a lot different than 1907, we could go back to 1776! We get alot more fomr our government today, do we need to go through that list again? .

Sorry the dedicated % may be a nice goal, but not very realistic in a real world, but now the "R's" have all the tools and votes to make it happen. Ironically, the first itme that seems to be on the list is not deficit reduction and spending control, but a tax cut for the wealthy!

It is difficult

“There’s a brainwashing that goes on” and “when I see ignorance and hate I will call it what it is.” These two statements from Mr. Walsh show how difficult it will be for liberals to try to understand the other side and not consider all of them yahoo, stupid, racist, etc., which is almost exactly what Rush said. Maybe what Mr. Walsh thinks is ignorance and hate actually is not… and brainwashing is just laying out the facts. Even Mr. Doherty has hard time not doing this with references to Trumpism even though a lot of Trump voters voted for him out of despair and frustration with full understanding of Trump’s ideas, not because they support his personal views.

Assumption

I try to always assume good intent, I find it hard to believe that there are many people out there who are sitting around trying to think of ways to harm others.

I even understand that people who support generous welfare benefits think it truly has more benefits than costs to the recipients. Whereas I think it robs them of their humanity, self esteem and dooms them to dependence / generational poverty.

Now do you think readers will believe that I care for the poor or am trying to save money?

Most apropo and just on the Radar:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2016-12-16/mapping-the-growth-of...

Ironic: Seems, the majority of Social security welfare is going to Red states: Yep, John 100% on board with your, they should live off charity, not my tax money. Have we found common ground?

well

For one, you have an overly simplistic view of society. Especially coupled with the future of this country. I've heard we're the most innovative country in the world but that's largely just putting the best foot forward without mentioning the cost in terms of unemployment that comes with technological automation. I watched the last of the multiple family harvests where they had teams of horses hauling the harvest to market, helping each other to bring it in. Pretty soon a farm will only need a combine and a truck or two to bring in a harvest, once Uber or Tesla or someone else produces the first fool proof self-driving technology for their cars. Uber believes it can and has so strongly they are breaking a cease and desist order in California. That will change the dynamic of over-the-road employment versus shipping companies.

As many have said "you can't stop progress" (for long anyway) but we can set it up so a portion of the people who rely on diminishing job opportunities will not go hungry because the numbers of unemployed outnumber the available jobs. That's what the product of our technology must address. It would be painfully obvious if you have ever worked for a company who designs automated systems. Even if the mining starts up again in the North, the jobs won't be as numerous because of automation. Especially when Uber proofs it's point. The population of the US is still growing and the opportunities for employment are shrinking.

To your question, you are trying to save money (or you don't recognize the future).

Identity Crisis

One of the things I struggle with the most are the labels used, and more importantly, the sweeping generalizations associated with those labels. For many years I've tried and tried to find a label that fits me - but I can't...partly because of what I think the labels mean and partly because I'm not what others claim the definitions to be in whole. And frankly, depending on the day, none of the labels are good choices.

If you've ever gone into Target with khaki pants and a red shirt, there's a good chance you'll be mistaken for an employee - and if you're wearing it outside of Target there's also a chance someone will make a joke about it - they own it!! Target has created a definition for an outfit and try as we might, if someone has an association with Target (shopper or otherwise) that ensemble has a meaning tied to it.

To me, that's what's happening with political labels, individuals, groups, and agenda seekers do whatever they can to associate themselves or their agenda for or against a label and before we know it, it's like the label has been hijacked. In another thread, I thought to myself, if Paul Udstrand has to explain one more time what a progressive is I think he's going to pop!

We create our own ideas and perspectives and even if we have the best of intentions to make an objective statement, words like liberal and conservative (or progressive) will morph into the meaning of the reader/listener...so, what chance do we have to make our point, except to those who already see our point of view?

We might try to use more add-on words for our political labels like ultra or moderate to make our point, but again, even those words can be spun to make or miss the point.

Personally, I'd like to know people and learn about people without knowing their political/social label first...even khaki and red shirt people.

I'll bite:

My personal label: Social liberal, Fiscal conservative:
Couple key points:

Social liberal: Better to spend money on government programs than to lose rights or risk civil discourse. Do what you want, practice the religion you want etc, however don't impose those religions beliefs on me, and your religion must be just as tolerant of others if you expect us to be tolerant of you, Live your life, but it shouldn't cost me money, Believe that military/civil participation should be mandatory: Yes, freedom isn't free and everyone should do a military/civic stint. I think this would help erase a lot of the political difference when billionaire kids have to do civic time with not so well off inner city kids.

Fiscal conservative: Don't mind paying the tax $ to live in one of the freest countries on the planet, However, I want the money well spent and accounted for, contrary to right wingers, nothing is free, and I don't believe all government workers are inefficient and inept, in general they aren't any different than the private sector as a whole. The government has to accommodate a very diverse population with a very diverse set of goals, not an easy task, yes perhaps we get a little to off in one direction or another on occasion, sounds like a lot of our personal lives!

Can we use both?

So you used both liberal and conservative in your description, and honestly, this is close to my points of view, but our political system seems to be only one or the other. How do we "belong" when it feels like an all or nothing commitment to a proposed agenda/point of view that we can't fit into? Or that we may not want to be associated with all the other strings attached to either label?

Thanks for responding!

Labels

I agree with Cathy's point about labels. About a half dozen years ago, I wrote a Letter to the Editor of the Strib asking the they consider a new policy: stop identifying politicians with their party affiliation behind their name.
I never heard a word back about the idea but that wasn't surprising. I thought that omitting party affiliation might allow us to listen to the idea that the person had rather then automatically write them off. I was rather ashamed that it was what I did. If it was someone from my party I supported their idea, but if they were from an opposing party, I totally wrote them off.
I hated the idea that I actually did that myself and tried to make every effort to listen to what the person was proposing however it was near impossible for there would always be the party label behind their name. Maybe this wouldn't make any difference however I would like to see it tried.

Optimal point

Mr. Wagner, in your mind, does EVERYONE deserves government help? Do you take personal responsibility totally out of the picture? Of course, on the other hand, when everyone is dependent on government and government does everything, we get the USSR… Don’t you think there is a reasonable point between that and anarchy? And by the way, “promoting welfare” doesn’t mean “guaranteeing welfare.”

Your labels definition is interesting because those two things (socially liberal and fiscally conservative) are not mutually exclusive. The problem arises when the next label comes into play: Progressives who are sure they know how to run all things and if you disagree with them you are the enemy and so they will impose their will on everyone else.

Mr. Appelen, I agree, not many people are trying to harm others. But many people believe so deeply in their ideas, that they ignore the reality and try to enforce their beliefs on others…

Are you confused?

Governments are formed by people in order for all of us to live better lives together.
Government help?, like:
National defense, safe water, streets, sewers, street cleaning, snow plowing, clean air, interstate highways, laws that allow for commerce, land ownership, rights, examples: electrical power distribution, communication, safe food, police protection, international trade, borders, etc. etc. etc. Government helps all people, try living without it. Its just a question of how much and to what extent. Rich folks use it to create loop holes and special consideration, just like the dukes, lords and kings of jolly old England, to live above and apart of the common man. .

Where did I make any indication of lack of personal responsibility: Try re-reading before commenting, seems another one of the assumptions out of nowhere.

Fact: I recommended "Mandatory" military/civilian participation.
Fact: I noted "Do what you want as long as it doesn't cost me money"

Seems a lot of twisty turn things rather than address the: I agree or disagree with the concepts put forward. That is what the previous poster asked for Definitions around labels. Exactly what was responded too. Sorry we all don't fit into nicely prepackaged Liberal and conservative labels. I looked for ways to find common ground, you looked for ways to label and divide! Guess the article was spot on.

It was exactly my point:

It was exactly my point: government is necessary and helps everyone to certain degree but it doesn’t mean it shall not be limited. In your “Good Deal” post, you implied that not helping all poor is bad. And in another post you emphasized welfare… which did look like a call for government to take care of everyone. And I actually went even further than you and combined your two definitions… so no division here… But I hope you agree that it is impossible to find common ground with some people… Nazis and communists come to mind… and that is what I noted.

Go for it!

Looks like you just signed up for the "death panel" You chose the winners and the loser, those that get food health care and those that don't. Don't get twisty turny again, are not "all" Americans entitled to protection under the law? If they fall into a certain income category, etc. etc. are they not entitled to certain benefits under the law? Just like Billionaire Trump is entitled to not pay income tax!

The clarity is that you and folks like John think too many poor folks are on welfare, its too easy to get assistance, Ironically to some extent I agree. But:
A. Someone has to make those decisions, and I think we should work the other side the equation first.
B. You folks can't seem to come around to; the well to do are on welfare as well, by not paying their share. Please work on the argument that billionaires need $100M tax breaks and folks making less than $20K a year should get their food stamps cut? Which should we work on first, making the rich richer or the poor poorer?
Let's not go to the the rich have worked for it! The Mellon's, Rocker fellers, Carnegie's, Walton's etc, are long removed from the work that actually generated the fortunes. this requires a belief that certain families are entitled to life long prosperity, s noted earlier, similar to the lords of old England! And in this person's estimation the Red hats look more like Tories and the Blue hats look more like the American Revolutionaries.
Of course it is near impossible to find common ground with everyone, doesn't mean we stop working at it. Back to the preamble of the constitution: Didn't seen anything about making the rich richer, did see in clear print "promote the general welfare"

Who determines it

Mr. Wagner, now I got it: by saying that I signed up for “death panels” you are doing exactly what you accused me of attributing to you without justification: denying personal responsibility. Now, what is a fair share to pay? Who determines that? Government bureaucrats? Some socialists? Your displeasure with billionaires doesn’t mean that you can come and take their money. Again, that has been tried… And if that billionaire uses that $100M tax break to open another factory, I am all for that because then the one who gets $20K may get $40K and not need food stamps. But even if he or she works for $20K, I don’t have any problems with helping with food stamps. However, if that he or she doesn’t want to work, I do. And welfare should be promoted, not guaranteed, as I said before. In my mind, it should be promoted by giving everyone freedom to succeed.

Last Comment

From your perspective, how does your last comment square with "Fact: I noted "Do what you want as long as it doesn't cost me money" ?

People who have failed to learn in K-12 and single parent households are 2 of the leading causes of poverty in America. Both are examples of people doing what they want... Thoughts?

Now as for tax policy, I agree that we should greatly simplify the tax code. But remember that many of the deductions were put there on purpose to encourage citizens to make certain investments and take certain risks..

Please explain this special tax break for wealthy people? None of us pay taxes on losses, only on profits. And in fact many of the credit and deductions that are available to folks like us disappear at higher incomes.

On disdain and distrust

I quoted Bill Doherty in a book I wrote 10 years ago and now pay attention to anything he writes/says, so I appreciated this Q&A with him. I particularly noted the information about “Strangers in Their Own Land” -- the book based on a community in a polluted area of Louisiana that is against the EPA. The rationale: 1) Faulty perception -- e.g., with a distrust of government 'controlling things' they tended to estimate that 40% of people work in government, when, really, it's less than 2%; 2) Reinforcing storytelling -- e.g., our tribal instinct (all of us have it despite our individualism) lead them to keep telling each other about the unfairness that new people to this country/workforce (including women) are cutting in line to get the American Dream ahead of them, so they simply love Trump's message that "I'm with you; you're getting screwed." My belief is that until we start to collectively correct our perception and storytelling about each other, we don't evolve at all. Those are the two starting points in the "Attainable We" book I'm writing now. It's not necessarily trying to understand or correct the politics we believe in... but to attempt to minimize the disdain/distrust... what we think of each other as people. Again... we saw how that had an impact on the marriage equality bill, at least enough to get to a majority of voters.

Democracy is Not a 'Collective Agency'

Doherty may be very learned in the psycho-therapy field but his basic political understanding is underwhelming in the very least. More on that later.

I am glad he is working to help people make sense of their very real, sometimes visceral reactions, and personal feelings about the election. Truly, some are in acute real need of assistance understanding the oscillating nature of American Politics and Policy. It strikes me that many Obama supporters had been lulled into a false sense of security about the direction of politics in this country. They inaccurately judged the past eight years as some sort of permanent 'course correction' or paradigm shift in American Politics. The truth of the matter is that within the confines of a long standing 'two-party' system in American Politics, our country swings from Left to Right and back again over a long time horizon or axis. An assessment of each Administration is completed by either passing or failing grades and then next Administration is elected. It's pretty simple really. Nowhere should it be written that you will always get your 'political way' in this country. No matter how much a generation of self described, 'participation trophy' citizen patriots may want it done that way. Moreover in expressing concern since November 8th and indicating a complete lack of understanding on just 'what went wrong,' these individuals cannot fathom the results because they have convinced themselves that politics had permanently 'turned a-corner' in this country. Truth is, it just has not done that.

Doherty inaccurately describes Democracy stating, "I think of democracy as a collective agency, a collective ability to come together across differences and solve problems and figure out how to do a life together." This is exactly where he and others go wrong. First, the idea is entirely too Utopian. Second, American Democracy is not about 'Group Think.' Third, only a Democrat uses the the terms 'agency' or 'collective,' in their definition of Democracy. I would advise Dr. Doherty to review and reflect on the historical periods of this country as defined by 'rugged individualism' and ask him if he thinks 'collective' and 'agency' fit his definition of Democracy during those periods. Also I would suggest a review of the literature on both sides of the long running debate on Democracy, Direct Democracy and the more accurate form of government in the U.S., that being a Republic. I truly believe upon reflection one would come to a much different conclusion on the definition of (American) Democracy. Specifically, American Democracy does not offer 'collective agency.'

The first Amendment guarantees your right to free speech, association and to organize. The American Republic offers the right to elect your leaders and citizens largely abdicate their duties to the elected in the meantime. Thus, the only real power of the electorate is 'course corrections' over time and not true 'collective agency.' Think about it.

The "me" mentality strikes again.

Look, this is rarely about "you". Both the interviewer, the interviewed, and most of the readers here, are relatively affluent liberals (with few other scattered about) who were overly complacent prior to the election and for the most part will face the fewest if any real consequences or ill effects of a Trump presidency. For most of the readers, the author, and Dr. Doherty this election is mostly a big disappointment. If you think THIS is stress, you have led a truly blessed existence.

Deal with disappointment however an adult deals with disappointment but socially and politically this isn't about you, it's about the people who are actually at risk and curling up into a ball of psychobabble isn't going to help them.

Yes, we'll need to come together, but really, we're not that far divided in the first place and we're no more divided now than we were before the election. It's important to remember that this is NOT a different country than it was before the election, some complacency's have been shattered but the country didn't change. People vote how they vote but that doesn't determine what kind of people they are, or what kind of people they can be. Yes, we may have some tough years ahead, but that was going to happen anyways. Focus on what we need to accomplish as a nation and find ways to work towards it. You're obviously not alone so we will find each other and work together.

Coming together is about connecting with other people and you don't connect with other people by making this about "you", on the contrary you need to get outside of yourself, not withdraw into yourself.

Spot on Paul

An industrial fascist environment only improves my personal financial picture. However the same can not be said for my college aged kid, friends, neighbors, etc. as those less fortunate as me.

Fascinated

I am always fascinated by the belief that the Conservatives are against law, order, good roads, sewer, bridges, national defense, civil rights, inter-state commerce rules, clean water, clean air, education, "government", etc. The typical statement being that they want us to be like Somalia... The reality is that these things make up less than half the budget and I know of no one who wants to cut these out of the budget.

The main areas of contention that I know of is with regard to government mandated insurance and wealth transfer. Well that, and could government be made more effective. (ie same results / less cost, better results / same cost) So could we just focus on this real difference instead of fear mongering and exaggerating? Just curious.

http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/16/what-is-driving-grow...

"It’s one of the most fundamental political questions of our time: What’s driving the growth in government spending? And it has a relatively straightforward answer: first and foremost, spending on health care through Medicare and Medicaid, and other major social insurance and entitlement programs."

Why yes

Putting an oil baron in charge of the EPA is REALLY showing regard for all things environmental. Not to mention the picks for interior, HUD, Labor, and Education. I'm sorry that you've bought into magic, but there IS no scenario in which it's same cost/better results, or less cost/same results. The only options that can be offered through the ideology available to conservatism is less cost/less results or no cost/no results. Though I guess for folks like me there is the ever popular more cost/less results option as they attempt to claim they will cover preexisting conditions.

Never Say Never

"there IS no scenario in which it's same cost/better results, or less cost/same results."

Between automation, computer programs, web systems, databases, eliminating duplicate functions, introducing better ideas, etc every company and person is doing more with less. There really is no reason the government and it's bureaucracies would be immune to these concepts.

The challenge is that if it is easier for them to ask for money than it is for them to improve, they will just keep asking. By the way, for many people welfare works the same way.

As for the cabinet choices, only time will tell what changes will occur. The big push back here is do the Fed agencies really need to pass tons of regs and over sight? Or are the States better equipped to deal with their immediate issues? Speaking of "expensive duplicate departments".

If I may...

I think Matt is talking about the real world vs. the world of magic thinking republicans tend promote. Yes, we know, the "promise" is always more for less and better the same via innovation and efficiency, but as Matt points out, in the real world stuff costs whatever it costs and republican have never delivered anything but budget crises, budget cuts, and deficits, i.e. less for less or in many cases actually less for more because by the time we get the budgets back under control the costs have increased.

Stuff

"stuff costs whatever it costs "

Does this mean that you personally never shop around for a better price?

You never look for a more cost effective method to accomplish the same tasks?

If your world view was correct, US businesses would all have gone bankrupt when global competition became intense. In stead they/we cut costs / improved effectiveness / improved quality, so we still have jobs.

The challenge is that they / we still are paying for a very expensive and in some areas ineffective bureaucracy. Which threatens our global competitiveness and jobs.

Basic economics

Yes, stuff costs what it costs, that's a basic fact. You can shop around but you still have to pay for whatever you buy. It's always kind of weird when republican business people deny basic economic realities, and that's why whenever they get into power they crash our budgets and trigger recessions instead of delivering the miracle prosperity they always promise.

Cheaper isn't necessarily more efficient, and cheap can be more expensive in the long run. Letting bridges collapse isn't really cheaper or more efficient than maintaining them or replacing them when necessary.

We all want the best and most efficient government we can have, that's not a republican or conservative insight or agenda, it's common sense and a shared agenda. The problem is that republicans have repeatedly demonstrated a unique inability to deliver such a government because their policies never manage to connect with reality. The idea that simply cutting budgets or tax rates will promote or deliver more efficient government is simply magical thinking. I guess when you can't get your head around the fact that stuff costs what it costs magic is the best you can do.

So

"We all want the best and most efficient government"

So how do you propose achieving this? Or do you think that a massive bureaucracy like our government will automatically strive for this efficient and effective state?

Most businesses manage by constraining budgets and demanding results. This encourages Managers to eliminate low priority activities, eliminate duplicate activities / departments, terminate ineffective employees, constrain employee costs, implement cost saving or quality improving processes/tools, justify training, etc. Without that fiscal pressure, there would be little motivation for folks to change / improve.

Think of GM when they were a solid near monopoly in the 1960's / 1970's. Everyone made money, quality was poor, models were poor and the customers just had to keep paying more. Kind of like us tax payers today.

Yes and businesses also fail

Go ask the folks at Famous Dave's how well cost cutting worked for them. Your assumption is that private industry always acts in ways that are preferable to the way government operates. Often times they are simply inept, and do things like cut to the bone to temporarily boost profits, only to go under as a result. Not a problem in the private marketplace as new enterprise can take their place, a bit more so when it's the government of a nation.

Government

The nice and terrible thing about government is that they are not reliant on the whims of customers. If they want more money they just raise our taxes. Of course that means they can afford to be wasteful, because we pay the bill.

Not sure what happened to Famous Dave's, my guess is that people weren't eating BBQ nearly as much as they used to. I used to go there often for lunch, but my tastes have changed.

See this is the problem

Now we've reached the point where I have explain the nuts and bolts of democracy and government as well as economics and business to people who rely on stereotypes as a basis in their reality. It's like trying to explain why putting sugar in your gas tank won't fix a blown head gasket to someone who's pretending to be a mechanic.

The problem on a basic level is the unshakable reliance on the myth of private sector efficiency, a myth that should have been shattered by the last recession. For one thing the business management techniques John describes are exactly the same ones deployed within the government, and with a few notable exceptions like defense spending and $500 hammers governments in liberal democracies deliver more service and efficiency for the dollar than you find in the private sector. You can brag about how many business don't fail during recessions but our government has never failed or collapsed during a recession and in fact has typically come to the rescue of the collapsing private sector. The government saved the financial sector and auto industry in last recession for instance. We can argue about whether or not the government should rescue the private sector, but the fact remains that the private sector keeps collapsing whereas the government does not and that fact doesn't point to a superior private sector.

At the end of the day our would-be mechanics are never more than one trick pony's who have one and one idea that totally conflicts with own logic. They would have believe that businesses routinely control costs by deliberately decreasing their own revenue and that's exactly what the government needs to do, i.e. lower taxes mean more efficient government. Yes, because Somalia has the MOST efficient government on the planet.

Not sure what you mean

The government doesn't make insurance unsustainable when it actually has to pay claims, it's business model does. Likewise, government doesn't make our health decline in old age, biology does. Medicare was created to reconcile the latter with the former, and nothing has changed in the interim outside of their being a LOT more old folks. Insurance companies are not going to self immolate to cover seniors. In the reality of reduced funding for, or elimination of, Medicare many seniors will go without. Spend less/less results. Same logic applies to health insurance for anyone who is sick, if there are not enough healthy bodies to offset the ill , premiums will skyrocket, or companies will fold. Conservatives have no answer for this problem because there isn't one, it's the fundamental basis of the insurance model. Good luck excess trimming your way out of that.
As for regulations, we don't need to wonder, we have the evidence of history. Like I asked Ilya, regarding socialism, why do you think agencies like the EPA ever came into existence? Presumably the states had the means to regulate before, but chose not to, most times to disastrous effect. As always it's far easier and cheaper to influence state level governments than our national one. All a piecemeal approach does is lower the cost of entry for those who look to abuse government for selfish ends. Why folks think the base desires of the corrupt and corruptible have somehow changed for the better over the course of time is a mystery.

Many Causes

There are many causes for needing medical care, including old age. Bad diets, insufficient exercise, smoking, drugs, alcohol, etc are all behavior based causes. Applying pressure to help people live healthier may reduce costs greatly. Remember we are one of the most over weight countries in the world.

I think of government is like the lift conveyor on a roller coaster. You know the one where there are mechanical latches to keep it from going backward. There likely were reasons in the past for many aspects of government. However things also may have changed so that they are not needed anymore. Unfortunately government usually only adds... Rarely does it delete.

Sorry

Got to agree with Mr. Haas:
No one ever defines what "less regulation" etc. is. For folks like me I see it as corporations etc looking to dump their cost on the commons: (higher particulate, Higher Nox, higher CO2, lower fuel mileage, less safe, more difficult to sue for negligence, corporations like the advantage of a multi-million dollar staff of lawyers against Mr. or Mrs. Joe and Jane American, parts per/ whatever? Easier to fire folks, easier to be racist, deny folks equal protection under the law, right to vote, easier to take over and exploit public lands etc. if not, then what are all those strangulation regulations?

Exactly

It's like the promise of "small" government, conservatives have never defined it even in simple terms, they just always say: "smaller" or "less" than it is now; OR they claim that it shouldn't be ANY "more" or "bigger" than it is now but they can deliver what we get for less because we're being over-taxed.

All it ever really amounts to is whining about having to pay taxes and share the country, environment, and economy with fellow American's.

It's been frustrating for decades because despite it's absolute incoherence democrats have yet to form even the most elementary response to this mumbo jumbo. On the contrary "New" triangulating Clinton democrats of the 90's actually bought into the magical thinking.

Goal

I vote for 33% of GDP

I like it

I like hearing “stuff costs what it costs” from Democrats. The obvious conclusion from this is that minimum wage is nonsense since labor (stuff) costs what it costs (meaning what an employer is willing to pay). On the other hand, this maxim may also be applied to education meaning that free college is a chimera. And of course if government is more efficient than private business, how come, Mr. Udstrand, the USSR, Cuba, Venezuela were/are so poor?

Yes, EPA was created to help with the environment but why do you think the environment was so bad in the Soviet Union despite multiple government organizations which were supposed to “help people live healthy lives?” There is an optimum level of services government should offer and there may be a discussion on how much but saying that the more the better is absurd. And the fact that private business is more efficient than the government cannot be disputed (with the note that the larger the business is (after certain point) the less efficient it becomes). And of course people should be responsible for their choices and live with the consequences of their choices.

China

And don't forget China, until they adopted open policies, capitalism, etc they were about as poor as could be. They may have a Communist government, but most of their economy is incredibly Capitalistic now.

My friends send their kids to "better" private schools, pay for their health insurance, etc.

We're off course but one last thing...

Whenever we get into these weird conversations about government and "efficiency" with conservatives we always get a dose of magical thinking based the "principle" of fiscal discipline. The idea is that the only and or most effective way to get efficient government is to cut taxes.

This mentality is fundamentally flawed for a variety of practical reasons but the biggest problem is a basic failure to understand the nature of human beings. The "fiscal discipline" model is based on the false and frankly bizarre assumption that "profit" is the only or best motivation for efficiency.

The fact is that human beings are almost programmed on an genetic level to seek efficiency since it's a primary survival strategy. In fact efficiency isn't even a unique human characteristic, you see it throughout nature. If "profit" or financial gain were the only motivation for efficiency the species would probably have died out long before the era of capitalism began around three hundred years ago.

I think one the best examples of efficiency is the native American teepee. It's one of the most efficient, sustainable, and comfortable examples of portable housing ever invented and it's development had absolutely nothing to do with profit or financial gain. Human history is filled with similar examples that go back millions of years before Adam Smith a new economic system to describe.

The idea that government workers or other people who work in "bureaucracies" have no interest in efficiency simply defies human nature. In point of fact no, most people do not want to waste their own time or collective resources and do in fact look for way to save time and money on a daily basis, whether their planning their personal errands or working for the Health Department.

Of course the irony is that those who typically prattle on about "efficiency" end up being precisely those who have absolutely no idea how it works or emerges in the workplace or culture. MBA programs and corporate culture have reduced concept of "efficiency" to little more than jargon with almost mystical characteristics. This is why budget crises is predictable whenever republicans take power, they deploy an incoherent notion of "efficiency" that invariably crashes into reality very much like a train wreck.

Actually

Actually controlling budgets has nothing to do with profits. It is about constraints and making people prioritize. If the budget just increases to the "wished for" amount, the people will try to do everything whether it is important or not. And they will likely keep hiring and giving raises because there are always "good works" to do. Unfortunately it seems that many people forget that this extra spend is being taken from families who likely have more important things to do with it.

Sorry John

" It is about constraints and making people prioritize."

You still don't get it. Any company or government agency has a mission and no matter what the priorities are that mission costs money. Priorities aren't determined by budget, their determined by the mission. If a car dealer decides that it's "priority" is going to be recycling it's paper cups instead of selling cars because recycling is cheaper, they'll likely go out of business.

Budgets are about having enough money to fulfill the mission and that's about balancing revenue with expenses, this is a basic basic basic principle of business and organized activity in a capitalist economy. Government agencies have to justify every penny they ask for and their budgets are reviewed far more frequently than those in private sector, they don't just as for what they "wish" and they almost never get all that they ask for unless politicians intervene. For instance republican's have been dumping more money on the defense department and various weapons programs than the Pentagon has been requesting for over a decade now.

Furthermore, it's legislators and executives not bureaucrats that establish "priorities" for the most part because no government agency operates beyond the bounds of the legislation that establishes it. My wife works for the Health Department for instance and everything she does requires statutory authorization, if anyone asks she can point to the exact language in the statute that gives the authority to do what she's doing. Compare that to you're last experience with customer "care" specialist in the private sector who put you on hold when you asked to talk to a supervisor and then hung up on you.

The idea that people will just keep getting whatever money they ask for because they can always find something to spend it on is an interesting fantasy, but it's not connected to any reality either in government or the private sector.

We live in a liberal representative democracy. Our government does what we ask it do, not what bureaucrats dream up. Legislation governs everything government employees do, they make up their own missions or priorities and they certainly don't get more money simply because they ask for it.

Governance is about deciding what we want our government to do, and then paying for it, government isn't "free". The "size" of government is determined by the mission we assign it, it simply needs to be however "big" it needs to be in order to do the stuff we want it to, and yeah, that stuff costs money.