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Is the political pendulum in Texas swinging once again?

My wife and I moved to Texas in 1966 so that I could begin a teaching career at TCU. By 1974 I had become Director of Continuing Education… and also became TCU’s representative to the state legislature in Austin. I found Democrats in charge there, but I also found bipartisan cooperation. Democrats were liberal in that they were interested in social programs and education reform, but they were also conservative in financial matters.

Gradually, however, the legislative climate changed. My impression was that conservative-leaning Democrats were gradually becoming Republicans, and bipartisan cooperation was beginning to fade away. Soon, redistricting lead to gerrymandering, and gaining and maintaining political control became the objective. Power politics became the name of the political game.

It now seems to me that the political pendulum might be swinging once again! Two thoughts:

1. A large number of people seem to be simply getting tired of power-driven politics. They appear to be rejecting the intense polarization and anger produced by control-driven politicians. They also seem to be accepting that the U.S. is a country of immigrants. Book banning, voter suppression, and “cancel culture” confusion are add to this growing fatigue.

2. New candidates are running against those currently in power. Could they actually be splitting the power-politics vote? Cross your fingers.

Maybe the pendulum is slowly swinging again… possibly away from the small group currently in power and toward meeting the genuine needs of the majority. Such a swing could pave the way for smart people with new and more unifying ideas to find their way back into Texas politics!

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Right now Biden must focus on his successes…his handling of Ukraine and NATO, the COVID slow down, passing the bipartisan infrastructure bill, and improvements in the economy.

In addition, issues messaging must focus specifically on current crises… not past ideas and experiences.

Internal party bickering must stop.

Use of internal and external focus groups will help find and clarify appropriate messages.

These groups will also assist in developing brief “talking points” for staffers and others in the party.

Using both old and new media every day will help reach broader audiences and age groups.

Disciplined use of consistent messaging is needed to stop internal disagreements and external criticism.

Today’s TV news organizations inadvertently produce confusion on important topics and issues. Here’s how:

  1. TV news can’t resist the temptation to seize opportunities to increase profits.

2. They add lots of commercials… and even shorten them to cram more into more frequent breaks.

3. They promise new information on previously reported stories… but only change words and pictures.

4. Anchors and reporters talk faster and louder to add drama, cutting stories short, with no context.

5. Anchors are selected with star-potential and are groomed into fashion-conscious celebrities.

6. They point out that the entire story is on their website… but know few viewers will actually go there.

7. Mainstream stations invite opposing experts or politicians to argue… resulting in more confusion.

8. Also opinion-driven stations find commercial success by serving only viewers that agree with them.

To serve the broader public interest, mainstream TV news programs must slow their pace, report complete stories, and provide much more context. In other words, “Lester Holt, the anchor for America” should end.

Prof. Barbara F. Walter explains in her book, “How Civil Wars Start,” that a civil war is very close when really important groups begin to fear losing their power and influence.

A political party, a minority group, a religious group, a current government, a key institution or organization, or even an antigovernment militia group, can be one of those groups.

Right now the leading group in the U.S. is the Republican Party.

Examples elsewhere around the world include Hindi and Muslim groups in India; Shia and Sunni groups in Iraq; Catholics and Protestants in Ireland; Walter lists and explains many more.

In today’s Internet and social media-driven world, Walter explains that civil wars usually begin with groups or inspired individuals making personal attacks… but they often also go on to include street protests, militia wargames or dry-run attacks, labor strikes, targeted assassinations and bombings, and more.

There are many ways to stop modern civil wars… these include finding leaders to call-out and explain over-and-over what’s happening; asking prominent reporters and respected pundits to urgently repeat every day the “democracy in danger” message; offering civics and media literacy education in schools and community groups. Walter’s book lists more.

Walter’s book is an argument that we in the U.S. are very close to a civil war… and it issues a strong warning that this is how other democracies have been lost.

I highly recommend this book… it is very well-researched, and her examples and practical suggestions are all based on historical facts.

Preserving American democracy must quickly become the President’s primary priority and message.

This message must include legislation to guarantee voting rights.

Other issues must be addressed by other supporters… i.e. COVID confusion and infrastructure.

Political parties and individuals that are creating barriers must be “called-out “aggressively every day… one-by-one, and by name. The democracy threat has become that serious!

Otherwise, history will record that this is the president who didn’t save American democracy.

Media revolutions brought us new and powerful communication tools. The digital revolution brought social media platforms…

These tools quickly became useful to target and gain the loyalty of underserved groups.

Therefore, political parties were able to win and maintain power with these tools by gerrymandering voting districts and passing laws to make it difficult for opponents to vote.

Even individual politicians were able to use Facebook, Twitter, Apple, Amazon, Alibaba, and other social media platforms, in their campaigns… as well as to maintain voter support when in office.

Social media tools also attract huge numbers of small-dollar donations… and inspire people to act… both for good and bad.

And they can even be used to attack opponents and critics… using fear of social, political, and even bodily harm.

The fact is that media revolutions have also given autocrats around the world the simple tools they need to gain and maintain control of entire countries.

Dictatorships often begin exactly this way.

Democracy is lost too. Here is how it is happening in our country:

Washington became polarized… and dysfunctional for too many citizens.

A candidate for president happened upon some of these underserved people.

His constant rallies appealed to them, and they became his loyal “base” of supporters.

He surprised even himself and was elected president… gradually his party won many state elections.

These states then changed their voting districts to make it easier for their candidates to win elections.

They eventually passed laws to make it difficult for their opponents to vote.

They also passed laws so that if they lost an election, they would be able to claim fraud and change votes.

This is how the right to vote can be lost for too many… and along with it, our precious democracy.

The politics of “no” begins with a political party that states no campaign platform. It only wants to stand in the way of most everything its’ opponent wants to do.

The U.S. is experiencing this currently with the Republican Party.

Social media are used to target and appeal to groups that are under-served.

Rewards are used to keep supporters loyal. Fear is used to keep them in line.

Defeating the politics of “no” requires the opposition and party defectors to call-out everything the party is doing… and how it is doing it.

And overall messaging must be changed to specifically to address the country’s most troubling problems.

Here are just some of the issues..

  1. Political pressures from trustees, parents, and others.
  2. Student protests on a whole range of issues.
  3. Dealing with extreme speakers and new attitudes about freedom of speech.
  4. Staff no-shows in food preparation and building and grounds services.
  5. Overall supply chain shortages.
  6. Maintaining enrollment and making growth decisions.
  7. Resolving on-line versus face-to-face teaching issues.
  8. Pressures to change academic freedom and tenure policies.
  9. Increasing general criticisms of “the administration.”
  10. New academic curricular and advising challenges.
  11. Changing health and mental services needs.
  12. Addressing climate change controversies.
  13. Dealing with the dramatic influences of social media.
  14. “Critical race theory” and “cancel culture” pressures on the curriculum.
  15. Responding to working from home requests.
  16. Whether or not to add professional certification to academic degree programs.
  17. What to do about mounting athletics issues and problems.

Strong institutions are the bedrock of democracies.

Government, community, and even international institutions, undergird democracies.

This is why autocrats immediately attack, weaken, and eventually eliminate strong institutions.

Autocrats also activate partisans on boards of institutions… to influence operational decisions.

They also constantly attack, and eventually seek to control the free press.

So to prevent autocracies, we must strengthen all our institutions.