Ups, downs, hypernormalization

Within little more than 36 hours I was wrenched between highs and lows, this week.

Tuesday morning, I got up, grabbed a campaign sign, and walked up the street to the neighborhood polling place to fly the flag for City Councilperson Tristan Rader‘s reelection. I was already anxious, and as the day wore on, I began sinking toward downright despondence. Mostly because I have just been traumatized by too many crushing election results over the past several years. I know that this pessimism is a bias on my part, but I also know that it isn’t so much of a bias that I can just dismiss it.

So, it was a great relief when the Board of Elections posted early-vote totals with Tristan leading all others in an eight-candidate primary. Even better, election-day numbers later boosted my neighbor Laura Rodriguez-Carbone to third place. The top six candidates will all appear on November’s ballot, but the top three in that election will be elected to city council at-large; astonishingly the exact three candidates I voted for are now presumptive favorites.

That was exciting. Not every Tuesday result was great, but a number of interest to me were positive. I was e.g. rather relieved that the “knife-edge” warnings were completely off and California’s recall election came nowhere near deposing the state’s Democratic governor, even if he is personally mediocre at best.

By Wednesday evening, however, I was back to dread, and I unplugged rather than follow the showdown on Ohio’s Redistricting Commission from which poor results seemed likely and which I would be entirely unable to influence at that point. In this case, I was correct.

Just after midnight yesterday, Republicans voted 5-0 to rig Ohio’s next two elections with gerrymandered maps. More than one of them acknowledge that these don’t conform with the state constitution, while lamely claiming that they wish they could do something else. This is just about as brazen as you can get, an absolute outrage, however I can’t really claim to be shocked. Not only has it long been obvious that Republicans generally are dishonest bullies—who are also completely accustomed to ignoring Ohio’s constitution with no repercussions—I have furthermore lived through much the same movie about six years ago.

As I wrote the next morning, everyone looks like trash here to varying degrees. The Republicans are beyond contempt, yes. But also: The Ohio Democrats who (thanks especially to Armond Budish) forfeited a reform deal a dozen years ago. The national Democrats preoccupied with spending bills. The nonpartisan groups which brokered this failed compromise that left the pen in politicians’ hands. Last but not least I am a complete sucker for buying the hype.

This is basically a fiasco and stretches the limits of what is even tolerable. Even the corrupt local government which liquidated Lakewood Hospital did so after engineering a fake public controversy; here, by contrast, absolutely everyone among the many who testified at redistricting hearings thoroughly condemned the rigged maps which Republicans voted to ram through anyway. Stopping that was the entire point of redistricting reform ballot measures. At this point were are left with only scant hope, against-odds, that at least one of the Republicans on Ohio’s state supreme court will tell Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman that he’s full of shit, and that he cannot overturn the entire point of constitutional redistricting reforms by making up loopholes after-the-fact.

Even if that happens, the same exact people will just be ordered to draw new maps and follow the rules, as they were already told to do. This same problem seems to apply to redistricting provisions in the Freedom to Vote Act; while a lot of it sounds like very good legislation, even if setting aside my disbelief that Senate Democrats will ever unite to enact rule changes against Republican opposition, writing rules and relying on either the honor system or judges to enforce them is not really a convincing solution at this point. As Ohio has demonstrated, you need to take agency away from the abusers, not provide them with more-detailed instructions which they won’t regard as legitimate. (As I concluded a while ago, rules cannot really contain people who just have zero respect for any authorities or rights beside their own, and Republicans have reached that point.)

This is all just a small, small selection of things within a fraction of one week.

Things have just been too much, for too long.

This morning I read my friend Sean making this point, on his blog; a bit later I saw someone local wrote an LTE headlined “Each Morning my Hope Turns to Hopelessness About the State of our Nation and Politics.” I didn’t read that one further but I feel like I get it perfectly well.

The hypernormalization of the unbelievable and intolerable is just an ongoing challenge to cope with. Even before this week I have been so keyed-up lately that I have had to cut out caffeine.

I’m not totally paralyzed by despair, personally—at the moment a conviction that I need to do some things on my own behalf competes with the despair at most larger systems—but writing this blog post hasn’t helped honestly. So I’ll stop here.

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