Tag Archives: viewpoints

Foresight 2020: Get Real

The 2020 election is fifteen months away, and already the Democrats are intent on deciding how best to lose.  There is general agreement among the two dozen or so candidates that any one of them would be a far better president than the one we’ve got now.  Yet, their collective strategy seems to focus on mutual disparagement.

It is painful to watch.  The urge to score a knockout punch is obscene in its irrelevance.  The desire to thump an opponent—preferably an opponent who has higher poll numbers—outweighs the real necessity of focusing on the shortcomings of the presumptive Republican nominee the sooner the better.  The candidates’ other favorite tactic seems to be to bore the public to death by discussing minute policy differences.  The Republicans and their titular leader are gleeful.

How can this be?

The current “president,” who is perhaps the most obnoxious resident of the White House since Andrew Johnson, presides over an administration distinguished by incompetence.  His one notable campaign message from four years ago was the exclusion of immigrants, and he has pursued that theme since his election, recently claiming that the United States is “full.”

The election of 2016 ushered in an era of corruption of our public discourse through so-called “social” media and the subversion of our political process by foreign governments.  The “president” has done nothing about this because, in his view, it is all a hoax.

The central animating principle of this government is self-glorification.  He thrives on adulation of rally-goers.  He exploits division in the body politic and appears indifferent, at best, to the chanting of an adoring mob motivated by core racial hatred.

Essentially a one-trick pony, his signature tactic is to “tweet” whatever outrageous thing comes into his little mind and watch the world react.  It’s a game that he enjoys, and “We’ll see what happens!” is his favorite go-to phrase.  

Unfortunately, a loyal 45 percent of the American electorate is happy to share the joke.

So, why are Democrats losing?

Unlike the lively Republican rallies, the Democratic primary debates suffer from poor production and little entertainment value—unless you happen to enjoy watching a wall of lecterns and hearing people talking over one another.

The much-hyped my-plan-is-better-than-your-plan contest is tedious and uninteresting.  If the candidates believe that this is the way to attract voters, they are delusional.  One can only hope that this is a temporary insanity.  It is high time to get back to what is real.  Having a plan is a fine thing, but to pitch your plan as a future reality is foolish. 

What is real is that none of the candidates’ plans will ever become law without significant modification through the legislative process.  To a large extent, then, the details that the candidates are spending so much time arguing about are a fiction that is all the more fanciful as long as Republicans control the Senate.

To make the primary more interesting and possibly even exciting, the candidates should consider how to outsmart the format that is being foisted on them.  They should work together not only to put one of their number in the White House but also to retain Democratic control of the House and win control of the Senate.

I would like to see the Democratic candidates actually meet with each other every two or three weeks (away from all cameras and microphones) and create a shared vision and a strategy to achieve it.  The debate stage could be used not to compare separate visions but to inspire one shared vision, with all of the candidates on the same page.  The candidate who can best articulate that vision—and most effectively contrast that vision with the present administration—should become the Democrats’ standard-bearer in 2020.

Can the candidates stop attacking each other and figure out how to join forces and support each other?  It’s doubtful, but I would sure like to see them try.

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Anticipation Rewind

In this blog’s early life, I was preoccupied with the notion that retirement was not a static condition but rather a process of transition consisting of distinct phases.  The concept of retirement phases was proposed by noted gerontologist Robert Atchley.  It seemed to me a useful framework to think of retirement in this way although the demarcation and description of each phase are imprecise and open to variations on a theme.  Atchley died recently in November 2018 at age 79.

As I look back now at my earlier blog postings, however, I am struck by the feeling that my own experience of retirement does not seem to fit well with the phases described by Atchley and others.  It may be that I am uncomfortable with the idea that my retirement could segment itself into categories of any kind devised by others, having long thought of myself as an oddball or, more honestly, as uniquely myself.

By now, according to Atchley’s formulation, I should have reached the “Stability” phase of my retirement, having passed through a series of transitional phases—the Honeymoon, Disenchantment and Reorientation—but these phases do not seem familiar to me.

To review: the Honeymoon phase is, in theory, a kind of post-career euphoria over liberation from work.  Euphoria is seldom if ever more than temporary, and following the initial phase of excitement about retirement comes Disenchantment.  Characteristic of the Disenchantment phase are feelings of emptiness, disappointment and uncertainty.  The next phase—Reorientation—kicks in as a coping mechanism.  If you are feeling empty and disappointed about retirement, what you need is an attitude adjustment.  You need to “reorient” or recalibrate your expectations.

I must have missed the Honeymoon phase, because work-liberation euphoria was not part of my retirement experience.  Consequently, because I didn’t experience the euphoria, I didn’t feel the phase of Disenchantment let-down either, nor the need for a great deal of Reorientation. 

It could be, as I wrote in an earlier post, that the retirement phases might not be distinct and sequential.  For some people, the phases of transition might be blended and experienced simultaneously.  Anyway, I think it must have been that way for me, each day seasoned with a just a spritz of euphoria and a pinch of disenchantment along with a dollop of reorientation and well-stirred.

According to the phase theory of retirement, eventually you find a nice balance between expectation and reality.  You are okay with the way things are.  Life is, after all, not so empty.  Come to think of it, retirement is kind of fun.  You have reached the Stability phase.

If retirement is indeed a transition, then Stability is the destination, the ultimate goal for retirement “success.”  Stability is nothing more than the ability to settle into a comfy niche.  It is a hygge-ish state of mind in which your general purpose for yourself may be simply to create more hygge.

But this definition of retirement success is grossly inadequate.  It leaves me nothing to aspire to.  There may be a comfy niche in disengagement from the world.  There may be stability under a rock.  Success in retirement requires more. 

Success is not a destination.  It is not a reward or a solution.  If to succeed is to find stability, then it is a kind of dynamic stability that embraces engagement more than retreat.  It is found in the choosing to struggle and strive and to find balance, even if only momentary.

It is as though I am standing with eyes closed, surrounded by the cacophony of my life, aware through some form of proprioception of a multitude of force fields some real and some imagined though as vivid and therefore indistinguishable.  Success is keeping my balance often without knowing how.

Success is found in continuing to strive for balance, and it must be earned in each moment.  Balance is an exploration.  It is always a quest, whether for light or truth or love or beauty.

The ground is always shifting beneath our feet, or as James Baldwin put it more poetically and with more insight than I possess, “the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing” and “nothing is fixed, forever and forever and forever.”

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