Empty Rhetoric

It’s been surreal watching people excuse the words of Republican presidential candidates–most prominently but nothing like exclusively Donald Trump–as empty rhetoric we don’t really have to worry about. I wrote this on Facebook yesterday, in the aftermath of the murders at Planned Parenthood. Someone asked for it to be sharable as a blog post as well.

Once upon a time, a politician telling you he (mostly “he” then) was pro-life meant that you knew who contributed to his campaign. He wasn’t going to actually do much of anything about it. He could get elected talking about it, but action risked re-election in most places. Besides, the courts weren’t terribly friendly to the idea. He could point to them if his constituents wanted to know why he wasn’t getting anywhere.

As a country, we got comfortable electing these people. It didn’t do any harm, you see. Abortion wasn’t really in danger. We could vote for the people who promised us comfort in suburbia, safety from the furreign and dark people, freedom to become rich, good gas prices, or whatever other illusion they thought would appeal. We didn’t have to be responsible.

But there were always true believers among those men positioning themselves as righteous. We didn’t believe they’d fuck with the courts, because theirs was supposed to be empty rhetoric. They did it anyway; they care about their beliefs, not ours.

While they were there, they changed the rules to make it easier to bring more true believers in. Then they did. Then they acted on the promises they’d been making for decades. They kept on acting on them, because we kept on voting for them as though the promises they made were still empty. In particular, the people who talk about politics have not been able to shake this belief because it dovetails so perfectly with the cynicism that lets us comment on politics like sports.

I don’t know how to fix this problem, but I do know this: When someone tells you they will hurt you, believe them. Maybe they’ll never find the chance on their own, but whatever you do, don’t hand that opportunity to them.

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Empty Rhetoric
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6 thoughts on “Empty Rhetoric

  1. 1

    A whole lot of this comes down to the simple fact that poor people, the people who are most vulnerable, a majority of which are minorities and/or female, don’t vote. The one thing that is the hardest for those in power to keep you from doing, and we, simply give it away. If the poor people exercised their franchise ,it would be a completely different country.

    No other change or understanding has a chance until this situation is corrected.

  2. 3

    For the benefit of lorn, compare the common practice in Australia to how the USA makes life difficult for ordinary working people to vote.

    * Elections take place on a Saturday when most people don’t have to take time off work to vote. Each electorate will have at least one polling station that is open about 6am, and at least one polling station that is open until 9pm. This information is well publicised in the weeks before any election.

    * Voters can send in a postal ballot for a defined period of well over a month before the election actually takes place, which makes voting easy for people who know they will be travelling, or who have accessibility issues, or who are subject to religious restrictions regarding secular activities on Saturdays.

    * Petty officials with biased agendas have almost zero wiggle-room in Australia for disqualifying anyone from registering to vote based on not liking something about the way they present. Voter registration is compulsory for all adults over 18, with no party affiliation component to the act of registration, just one’s name on the list of voters for a particular geographic area (this single act of registration is valid for local, state and federal electoral boundaries). There are no qualifications for registration other than having a valid birth certificate or citizenship certificate, and a recent bank statement or utilities bill as proof of your current address (voters are expected to update changes of address within a month or two of moving).

    * Petty officials with biased agendas are also unable in Australia to prevent people from entering a balloting station unless those people are actually causing a disturbance. Voter attendance at a balloting station (or having submitted a postal ballot) is compulsory in every election. Fines for non-compliance are minimal and spottily enforced, so some people simply don’t bother and just pay the fine if they get tagged for it, but because nearly everyone in one’s neighborhood is going to be at one’s closest balloting station, we have developed a tradition of community mini-fairs with fundraising cake-stalls and sausage-sizzles etc, and people tend to quite enjoy catching up with each other on election days.

    * If one happens to be unexpectedly unable to vote in your own electorate on election day, it is simple to fill in an absentee ballot in whatever electorate one happens to be in on the day of the election (including hospitals and prisons).

    * Australia sticks to simple paper ballots because they are more tamper-proof than more technologically “sophisticated” systems. The ballots are available in multiple languages, there are Electoral Officials (accompanied by party scrutineers) to assist people who are unable to mark the ballot unaided, and various interpreters are usually available in at least a few polling stations per electorate.

    From what I read regarding elections in the USA, poor people’s right to vote generally has very few of the same protections our system provides in Australia.

  3. 4

    p.s. if someone does cause a disturbance at a polling station and as a result ends up in police detention, it is my understanding that they will still be given the opportunity to complete a ballot at the police station, so as to not make them liable for a fine for non-attendance simply due to being arrested.

  4. 5

    The one thing that is the hardest for those in power to keep you from doing…

    Are you serious? Putting restrictions in place to discourage voting isn’t just common, it’s a deliberate campaign strategy.

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