To all Electoral College dropouts ...

Opinion: Ken Trainor

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By Ken Trainor

Staff writer

As Connecticut Governor Wilbur Cross said in his famous 1936 Thanksgiving proclamation 80 years ago this November, "Time out of mind at this turn of the seasons when the hardy oak leaves rustle in the wind, and the frost gives a tang to the air, and the dusk falls early, and the friendly evenings lengthen under the heel of Orion, it has seemed good to our people to join together in praising the Creator and Preserver, who has brought us, by a way we did not know, to the end of another year."

If ever it could be said of a year that we came to the end of it by a way we did not know, this would be the year.

The only silver lining in my mother's death last December is that she didn't have to endure the Great American Electoral Catastrophe of 2016, which would have sent her to her grave believing the country she loved had gone completely mad.

Which, of course, it has. Well, a quarter of it anyway. Just enough, as it turns out, to send us over the brink.

She would have thoroughly enjoyed the Cubs' World Series victory, however. None of us, I suspect, ever thought we would live long enough to witness such an epic event, and, given what transpired six days later, it's hard not to see the Cubs' victory as the cosmic concussion that set off the Apocalypse. 

Whatever the downside, the Cubs won the series and they won it the hard way, turning the W on their battle flag from a perpetual plea ("Win!") to a triumphant "Won!"

You win some and lose some, which made 2016 just like every other year — only more so.

Winning and losing was pretty much the meme of the year. The Cubs won it all, ending their historic World Series drought at 108, and Cleveland lost, extending their drought to 68. Except Cleveland also won, the Cavaliers rebounding from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Golden State Warriors in the NBA finals this past June, ending the longest major sports championship drought (51 years). 

A lot of winning (and losing) took place in Brazil this summer. Rio de Janeiro won by hosting the Olympic Games when many doubted they could pull it off. The Russians lost most of their Olympic team because of cheating, but their hackers helped win the American election for Vladimir Putin, proving that sometimes cheaters do win — or at least have the last laugh. 

Tweet won (the system was rigged — in his favor), but he lost the respect of anyone still capable of making a rational character judgment. Barack and Michelle Obama, meanwhile, won our regard by giving a tutorial on character, grace and integrity as their second term draws to a close. Maybe Lord Tweet and Lady Plagiarism will learn something from them.

There are many ways to win and lose. Over the years I've lost much that I needed to — anger mostly (though not completely) and other forms of emotional negativity. Winning, I've learned, often looks like losing at first. And the best things are hard-won. Grandfathering, for instance. I lost sleep and a good portion of my weekends for the first couple of years to babysit the boys. What the three of us won is a bond that can be built only by being there.

The Cubs put themselves and their fans through a lot of losing in order to build this year's remarkable team, and the fans' happiness is greater for all those years of futility. 

Unfortunately, this country is currently mired in a "win-lose" mindset, which is why the "I win-you lose" candidate won. The "win-win" candidate lost, but in the long run win-win will win — just as soon as we put a functioning democracy in place and change our national default setting from "either-or" (inequality) to "both-and" (inclusivity).

Inclusiveness will win because it must, and always has, throughout our history (which is why I strongly recommend reading Why Liberals Win the Culture Wars – Even When They Lose Elections by Stephen Prothero. It will provide the thing needed most following this election: historical perspective.)

The book underscores the fact that we are on our way to becoming a more inclusive people and creating a more inclusive world where everyone is treated with dignity and respect. Believing it will happen is the catalyst that makes perseverance possible, that makes patience possible, that in the long run makes progress possible.

Christmas is the story of a divine spark erupting in a dark world, the same spark that erupts with every birth — which feeds our belief that we will win, that we are, in fact, winning, even when it looks like we're losing. There is simply too much goodness in the world. It is insurmountable. The course is set, the outcome decided.

The only thing to be determined is how long it will take for the arc of the universe to finish bending toward justice (for all). At the moment, it looks as if that will take … somewhat longer.

"As my suffering mounted," said Martin Luther King Jr., "I realized there were two ways I could respond to my situation: either react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course." 

We move forward, hand in hand, stronger together, a creative force, knowing only that we will win — all of us — by a way we did not know.

Contact:
Email: ktrainor@wjinc.com

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Ray Simpson  

Posted: January 3rd, 2017 9:06 AM

@ Barbara Joan - It looks to me like Donald Trump is gathering a whole crew of business titans who see through complex situations and can plan a clear path to resolving problems. Trump's roll will be to keep the machine on the path and giving detractors reasonable responses. I would love to be a fly on the wall at that first cabinet meeting. It looks like our government is being taken over by a crack team of pro's who are all taking monumental pay cuts to serve their country and we citizens. Refreshing!

Barbara Joan  

Posted: January 3rd, 2017 8:29 AM

it's lack of any success stories despite trillions wasted on bad ideas.... ...What we have here is a serendipitous experiment: can the application of business principles alter in a positive way the massive federal bureaucracy? I hope so.--Because the basic incentives for success are different in the private vs the federal sector ( local & state, and schools etc). For instance, I have personally observed in the federal sector, that if one is very competent in performing one's job, your reward is more work: not more money or non-pecuniary benefits (as restricted by law). However, If one is incompetent in the federal sector, you generally do not get fired or get less salary. On the contrary, you are in a sense rewarded: by having less work assigned to you!! The incentives for success in the federal system vs the private sector are totally divergent...The waste you describe is not tolerated in the private sector and should anger tax payers who live their lives earning honest wages...The next four years under PresidentTrump could be very interesting in regard to the issues we have been discussing. It will take - on his part, rightly or wrongly - an enormous effort to move the leviathan in the direction you favor.........EXCELLENT COMMENTS!

Bruce Kline  

Posted: January 3rd, 2017 12:05 AM

Ray: I would say that the federal unions have served their membership quite well. You should also know that by law an agreement between the union and a federal agency applies to all employees even those who are not union members (hence the obligation of a union to represent non members in labor disputes if requested to do so). This has always been a bone of contention amongst federal unions since - as apposed to municipal or state unions - the federal workplace is an "open shop" and they (the union) can not with hold union dues of non members - the so called "fair share". Hence many federal workers don't join, because "what's the point?" The next four years under PresidentTrump could be very interesting in regard to the issues we have been discussing. It will take - on his part, rightly or wrongly - an enormous effort to move the leviathan in the direction you favor.

Ray Simpson  

Posted: January 2nd, 2017 11:04 PM

@ Bruce - I have always believed that when union reps negotiate with bureaucrats - the tax payer gets screwed. The poor union worker rarely wins either.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: January 2nd, 2017 8:21 PM

Ray: You have every right to criticize the Federal unions. But by the same token we must acknowledge the facts - the truth. And the truth happens to be that the federal work place is an "open shop," That being said, in response to your query: a "fired" employee - a relatively rare event - can request "union representation" even though that employee is not a member and has not paid any union dues. Of course I can tell you the union defense will be much less "vigorous" than that offered a dues paying union member. As to the "why" part questioning this whole process: well obviously you are questioning the societal worth of federal worker union representation. This issue goes all the way back to 1912 when unionization of federal workers was legalized. And then federal unions were given a massive power boost in 1962 by President Kennedy via executive order. So the concept of federal worker union representation - which you question - has evolved over a period of over 100 years and I doubt can be easily dismantled overnight. But we'll now see, won't we?

Ray Simpson  

Posted: January 2nd, 2017 6:38 PM

@ Bruce OK so what happens if a worthless employee gets fired, will the union defend him/her? If so why? We need to define "civil service" and figure out who is getting served. The tax payer is paying the bill and our government thinks they have an unlimited pile of cash to expend with little regard for those of us who foot the bill.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: January 2nd, 2017 6:00 PM

Ray: I agree with much of what you say but in the interest of truth I can tell you that federal jobs - as apposed to state jobs like in Wisconsin for instance - are in fact "right to work." As inconvenient to the narrative as it may be, the federal government operates under "open shop" rules although many federal employees are represented by unions. As apposed to state union members members of federal unions can not strike, can not impose a "closed shop" or its consequences (such as with holding union dues from non members), upon the work place, nor can they engage in collective bargaining in the "usual and customary" sense of the word.

Ray Simpson  

Posted: January 2nd, 2017 4:27 PM

@ Bruce - you have just explained why Donald Trump was elected. The waste you describe is not tolerated in the private sector and should anger tax payers who live their lives earning honest wages. Steve Wynn has been a competitor and a partner with our president elect and he stated that if Donald Trump makes a commitment, you can take it to the bank. Trump claims that 17% of the government work force retires each year, if they are not replaced we will see a shrinkage in the size of the government. If the work load increases many of the non producing employees may get pissed and move on. What would happen if Trump got legislation mandating federal jobs are "Right to work" and the government would no longer withhold union dues? Scott Walker did just that and most union teachers refused to pony up. We seem to fall pray to small minded people that believe that government cannot change and we must go along to get along.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: January 2nd, 2017 2:55 PM

Ray in regard to your comments as to Trump's private sector managerial skills enabling him to move the federal beast in an appropriate direction: I agree with you that this will be potentially historic. What we have here is a serendipitous experiment: can the application of business principles alter - in a positive way - the massive federal bureaucracy? I hope so. But as someone whose career has been both in the private as well as the federal sector I am skeptical. Why? Because the basic incentives for success are different in the private vs the federal sector. For instance, I have personally observed in the federal sector, that if one is very competent in performing one's job, your reward is more work: not more money or non-percuniary benefits (as restricted by law). However, If one is incompetent in the federal sector, you generally do not get fired or get less salary. On the contrary, you are in a sense rewarded: by having less work assigned to you!! The incentives for success in the federal system vs the private sector are totally divergent. I do not see this changing under President Trump. There are just too many rules, regulations and union agreements that will prevent him from doing so. But ultimately, the real reason why he will fail is that - as I have explained - the federal incentive system rewarding success is inherently counterproductive.

Barbara Joan  

Posted: January 2nd, 2017 9:14 AM

Using Martin Luther King's legacy for political propaganda is a shameful way to honor his mission. King made a conscious effort to maintain a neutral position in party politics,....Excerpt from a recorded speech Dr.King gave on March 25, 1965. in Montgomery, Alabama: ."Let us march on ballot boxes, (Let's march) march on ballot boxes until race-baiters disappear from the political arena. Let us march on ballot boxes until the salient misdeeds of bloodthirsty mobs (Yes, sir) will be transformed into the calculated good deeds of orderly citizens. (Speak, Doctor) Let us march on ballot boxes (Let us march) until the Wallaces of our nation tremble away in silence. Let us march on ballot boxes (Let us march) until we send to our city councils (Yes, sir), state legislatures, (Yes, sir) and the United States Congress, (Yes, sir) men who will not fear to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God. Let us march on ballot boxes (Let us march. March) until brotherhood becomes more than a meaningless word in an opening prayer, but the order of the day on every legislative agenda. Let us march on ballot boxes (Yes) until all over Alabama God's children will be able to walk the earth in decency and honor."

Ray Simpson  

Posted: January 2nd, 2017 12:12 AM

"Barack and Michelle Obama, meanwhile, won our regard by giving a tutorial on character, grace and integrity as their second term draws to a close" This political BS is probably believed by most Oak Park residents because they fear being called "Racist" Michelle spent millions mandating school food programs that have now been deemed to promote obesity. This last three weeks have proven what an egotistical little man Barack is. He is trashing our country for personal spite and I hope that is the legacy he enjoys. BHO's claim to comment on everything Pres Trump does will certainly backfire on him. Obama has never tackled a street fighter who punches harder and isn't afraid of the battle. I think a couple days after the inauguration Trump will explain the facts of life to Obama and let him know that political snipping will open flood gates of dirty little secrets Obama prays never get exposed. Fast and Furious, Benghazi and Stuxnet should provide fodder for the tabloids. The DNC and Clinton spent about 1 Billion dollars on character assassination and lost while spending 5x the money per vote. The public is fed up with the Progressive Liberal philosophy that believes government can do everything better. When asked for proof they just point out how incompetent some other politician is, so now we have a non-politician running the show and we will see how that goes.

Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: January 1st, 2017 9:40 PM

Am I the only one who thinks Ken may have had a bit too much egg nog while writing this? Or maybe I had too much milk punch before reading it.

Ray Simpson  

Posted: December 31st, 2016 2:59 PM

@ Bruce and we are about to see how that non establishment policy works. ( Your third way?) The war on poverty was a liberal progressive initiative that has robbed our nation of multiple trillions with no measurable benefit. BHO had his stimulus that flushed another trillion for "not so shovel ready " programs. I believe that we may come out of the Trump administration in far better shape than now because he judges success by what is accomplished, not how much free stuff he promises. As a manager Donald Trump KNOWS that he must give competent people specific direction and then hold them accountable. We sure don't need to like our president personally but, should at least give him a shot at turning things around.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: December 31st, 2016 1:50 PM

That right Bill. A war costly in both blood and treasure vigorously and enthusiastically supported by none other than then Sen HRC. I suggest both Democrats and Republicans voters consider a third way of doing business in this country - since both parties in my view are beyond the pale.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: December 31st, 2016 11:21 AM

"Trillions wasted on bad ideas"? You mean, like stating a war in a country that both Republicans and Democrats agree did not attack us? At a cost of more than $4 trillion and counting? That the waste you're talking about?

Ray Simpson  

Posted: December 31st, 2016 10:44 AM

Ken, While you found solace in your mother not seeing the 2016 election, my mother proceeded yours by only a few weeks and I am saddened that she missed the excitement. ( http://www.rblandmark.com/News/Articles/8-11-2015/Mary-Simpson,-99/ ) A political junkie at the age of 99 she would not have missed a debate and would tell you what she thought of the points and counterpoints. You are experiencing an ever shrinking population of citizens who buy into liberal progressive ideology and it's lack of any success stories despite trillions wasted on bad ideas.

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