From a general philosophical standpoint, I believed that it was best to put the weight of decisions in people's hands at the local level. I thought that - based on their ability to directly and easily influence the outcome - people would quickly become more involved in the political world. I thought that people would more or less be decent enough to stick to their own regional successes and failures and not try to dump their problems onto others and freeload.
I was wrong. Wisconsin and Texas have made that clear.
What I wanted was a federal government that legislated almost solely on issues of clear national importance - things like discrimination, security, and economy. I wanted state governments to be a similar layer for things like transit and resource use. I wanted local governments to do the heavy lifting on taxation and crime and gun control.
What I see now is that - with the way people currently are - that would result in local governments running wild and changing things overnight to serve a powerful handful of people, who would use their power in underhanded ways to get only certain groups to vote and to intimidate others, and there'd be a sweeping effect straight up the ticket. As well, they would use underhanded efforts to hide discrimination and the like, and use insane codes and taxes to try to force out groups and ideas that they don't like. I thought that such efforts would be counter-acted by an informed populace - but I now see that if such a population could exist, it likely would be crushed before it could get up to speed.
Americans aren't nearly mature enough for a system that puts the power into their hands. That what I heard from people in Wisconsin was "we're tired of voting" and "it was inconvenient to stay informed" and "voting was out of my way" after all of what's happened, and that I've come to understand how Texas is using voter intimidation and is siphoning resources from the rest of the country, shows clearly that any move toward localizing at this point is a terrible idea.
Localizing only works when (1) local means self-responsible, (2) local means equal access, and (3) local means rallying around the smart people.
Forget about the role that money played in Wisconsin. The people weren't interested in being involved.
Forget about the out-of-state funds. People around the nation could have donated, but didn't get involved.
You know who did get involved? The idiots.
More after the jump.
Simple-minded. Staunch Republicans. "Anti-elitist" populists. Racists. "Didn't get a handout" thinkers. Misogynists. Heterosexists. Homeschoolers. Dogmatists. Schadenfreudeists. Now I'm just making up words.
Whatever you call them, these are the people who went out in large numbers to vote. They stayed informed enough to know when and how to do so. They probably couldn't tell you what Walker's record is, or discuss political philosophy at length with you, but they know how to get to the polls and they're vigilant about doing so.
These are the people who are increasingly dominating election contests. And they're being led by figures who purport to believe a wide span of things - so there's a figurehead for everyone. There's the "evangelical Christian", the "anti-state atheist", the "small government, small-r republican", the "libertarian/liberty lover", the "evil union destroyer", the "fair guy", and the like.
No matter who they're following or what their motivations, all of these simple-minded fools are, perhaps because of their limited mindset, laser-focused on voting. Voting against Democrats? Voting against non-Republicans? Voting against "thieves"? Voting against "people not like me"? Whatever the answer, they're voting.
And it isn't just in Wisconsin.
I was naive enough to think that these some of these people weren't simple-minded. I bought into their rhetoric, pledges, mission statements, and public proclamations about wanting "fairness" and "individual liberty" and "civility" and "reason". I bought into the idea that they sometimes worked with people who are clearly simple-minded or corrupt because they felt that it was necessary to get their message out and the election day votes.
What I've recently discovered is that, after some continued prodding during a stressful situation, they reveal their true colors.
Ron Paul, for example, who I strongly wanted to see win the Republican nomination because his views were so very different and were centered on things that, as President, it seemed he would generally only do positive things with - like reverse horrible executive orders and refuse to acknowledge terrible legislation. It seemed as though he was a decent - if uninformed on key subjects - guy who, if he somehow managed to win the election, wouldn't tear down everything despite his nutty claims about killing off whole departments. I mean, this was a guy who spoke at length about reading bills carefully and looking at evidence related to legislation before his presidential run.
It was wishful thinking.
What has come to light is that he doesn't feel any moral obligation to condemn the corruption that surrounds him.
He doesn't speak out against Mitt Romney being a horrible person - which I let slide originally because of the idea that Paul was going to change the party platform for the better.
He doesn't speak out about how his former business associates (read: Lew Rockwell and his ilk) are liars, nor does he disinvite their speaking on his behalf.
He doesn't speak out about the corruption attached to his campaign spokespersons and advisers.
His campaign doesn't say a word about the horrible acts committed against even his own supporters at GOP conventions.
He barely made a clear condemnation of the guy who wrote those racist things for Paul's business newsletter operation.
And he's had plenty of time now to do any of the above - and less reason to shrink from doing so given that he won't win the nomination.
I mean, really. So much for "Mr. Principled".
And the thing is, Paul is the best thing on that side of the national aisle. As far as "small government/libertarian" people go, he's as good as it gets when it comes to people who've actually had a chance. (Strong civil rights rhetoric that he actually seems to believe, opposition to war, opposition to "total information awareness" policies, opposition to the militarization of the police, opposition to the War on Drugs, support for rehabilitation, and so on.)
What Paul lacked, I thought some of his supporters made up for. I truly believed that behind Paul was a coalition of Democrats, right-libertarians, left-libertarians, minarchists, independents, and the like who had reasonable views on the big issues - like civil rights, equality, war, and so on. If Paul wanted embryos to be persons, at least most of his supporters didn't. Most importantly, I believed that most of them were civil and philosophical - ripe for conversion to more sensible policy positions - while also being active in politics.
The last few weeks have been a learning experience. I've learned that probably 50% of these supporters - by whatever label - refuse to vote for someone who does not agree with at least 90% of their personal views.
According to my polling, a chunk of them are anarcho-capitalist atheists, many are "Pro-life Christians", and another big hunk are extreme libertarians and "small government conservatives".
Some of the most active members of one of the pro-Paul websites responded to a poll that I put up and some of them explained their answers. Here are a few highlights:
30% refuse to vote for someone who supports abortion.
Barely 50% support marriage equality.
Nearly 20% wouldn't vote for an atheist.
Nearly 40% wouldn't vote for a muslim.
70% vote based on ideology or personal principle.
30% believe that most scientific studies are unreliable, and that scientific communities are untrustworthy.
65% believe that "everyday Americans" make the best decisions, compared with an educated class. In other words, they believe that "everyone knows what's best for him/herself". (I should've also asked what they thought about knowing what's best for everyone in their household/their employees.)
So it shouldn't have surprised me that Paul's paid political blogger, Jack Hunter, tweeted to his followers that they should go out and vote for Scott Walker yesterday...but it did surprise me.
I didn't think that carelessness and "team sport" nonsense was that deep in the campaign and its supporters.
It also shouldn't surprise me that some people who I had come to have extended contact with and leaned toward believing were good, informed people defended GA as an "overall good political area" with "a few problem-starters", insulted me for "waving government around like someone waving a gun in my face" when I pointed out that regulations against Verizon and ATT were a good thing - not a terrible government overreach as was being claimed, attacked me for "being uncivil, unkind, and condescending" because I said "You're wrong. I don't think you know what affirmative action means. Look up 'adverse impact'." to people who were arguing that affirmative action is a way for minorities who feel discriminated against to get a job, and were upset not because Scott Walker won the recall vote, but because it was being chalked up as a victory for Mitt Romney.
Those same people work for a website that has in its rules that conspiracy theories are not to be tolerated, and were talking last night about how the results from recent primaries "must be flipped" to where Romney was given Paul's numbers. Other people previously in the week had been talking about "chem trails", "FEMA camps", and how the lack of "god" and the "protestant work ethic" are the real reasons why the country has been falling apart.
So, I guess I'd now make an argument for completely unrestricted speech on the basis that I'd rather know who is or isn't an idiot from the start.
In sum, I wasted a lot of time, effort, and money supporting a candidate whom I expected to be a good person who couldn't actually do much harm, and working with others whom I expected to be mostly decent people that would come around when presented with facts.
I said in the comments on one of my previous diary entries that when I'm wrong, I openly and fully admit it.
I was wrong. About a lot of important things.
I'll be attentive so as to not make that same mistake again.
And I'll be working hard to counteract the effects of that mistake.
It's clear to me that what we need in this kind of environment is a stronger federal government - one that can keep idiots in check and educate people until they can take the reigns again - if that ever happens.
It should still be a limited government - limited by careful debate over what is best for everyone - as government always should be. But it certainly should be a largely federal government that prevents the village idiots from taking over the village.