Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Lies We Tell
Watching the news last night and the story was Trump's efforts to change the conversation from a focus on women accusing him of sexual assault to his claim that the election is rigged.

Ohio Republican Jon Husted, who is in charge of the election in Ohio, was interviewed saying there are so many checks in place that Trumps claims are without merit: nothing to worry about. These are not the droids you are looking for.

The MSNBC host was satisfied...more evidence Trump is a loon.

I turned to my wife and said, "the only concern I have about election rigging in Ohio would work in Trump's favor, given all Husted has done to suppress the vote."

At the end of the segment, a prominent Republican talking head concluded that "while he is concerned about individual voter fraud" he is not concerned about the kind of widespread rigging Trump is prattling on about.

The MSNBC host was satisfied...loon confirmed.

So, both of the non-looney sides on this question do have concerns about the legitimacy of the election, but we are in agreement that Trump's claim goes too far. Or that he is motivated by a desire to distract, so his claim has nothing to do with our actual (and opposite) concerns.

Are we both misleading ourselves and others?

Sunday, October 16, 2016

A Great Week for Political Cartoons
A picture really is worth a thousand words, so just let the images tell their story.

Let One Hundred Flowers Bloom
AP journalist Joyce Rosenberg wrote about election talk in the workplace. Choosing to write on this topic during the election is smart and helpful. Well done. Her approach was less so. Consider this.
She focused on what employers could do to minimize any potential negative impact on productivity, which strikes me as the central concern we might expect in Pravda or The People’s Daily, ripe with instructions on how to manage worker thinking.

In a democracy the more important concern ought to be how we can all learn to engage more productively in these types of difficult dialogues. Our democracy depends on more of us mastering this skill set, particularly in the shadow of the most uncivil candidate in our life time being a heartbeat away from the White House.

A second choice to reconsider, in my view, is her choice to focus so heavily on employment law. This is a cultural and political challenge. The law is not irrelevant in establishing outer boundaries and guiding principles for evaluating situations that cross the line.

The contentiousness of this presidential campaign is spilling into some workplaces. Employment lawyers [recommend] rather than trying to control what people are saying, owners should focus on whether the work is getting done in an atmosphere that isn't hostile.

Of course we should not encourage employers to try to control or silence conversations among fellow citizens. Further, we should celebrate, not fear, whenever our interest in selecting our leaders is so high that the conversations spill into the workplace.

Our author then notes that the one employer she was using as a prop chose to call a meeting and “everyone agreed not to focus on it during work hours.” This strikes me as a fear-driven, undemocratic, missed opportunity.

Why not organize brown bag lunch conversations that include local experts from both parties coming into the workplace? Use coffee breaks to encourage those interested to meet one-on-one with the express purpose of listening to the reasoning behind an alternative perspective they currently do not understand?

Some employers do want to “ban political talk altogether.” Bad idea, as our author notes, but only partially because “this could land the employer in legal hot water.” The law is a good starting point here: employers determining what their workers can talk about is crosses a line. But the law only gets us so far in figuring out how to ‘be the change we want to see in the world’ here.

Rather than explore options for celebrating and supporting this amazingly democratic impulse in the workplace, our author’s narrow focus on the legal exposure of employers leads her to then turn to a focus on how political talk can create a hostile work environment.

Only when we lack the citizenship skills needed to engage with others who disagree with us. This is not a trivial caveat. The threat here is not the desire to talk politics, but our fear of talking politics that has resulted in a public pedagogy that has consistently de-skilled us in precisely the tools we need to do this in a productive and democratic and civil way that focuses on problem solving.

Our author’s narrow legal lens then brings us, of course, to enforcement questions.

"Enforce the fact that you're running a business. Political discussions at break time are fine as long as they're respectful," says a consultant. But make sure employees know they shouldn't get into political discourse with customers. If a customer is offended by a staffer's political beliefs, the company could lose that person's business.

We should absolutely reject any effort to ‘enforce’ conversational parameters here. But alienating customers is an interesting question to consider…perhaps a business would earn well-deserved customer satisfaction points if it were known as a place where conversations, on any compelling topic of the day, were always civil and thoughtful and respectful?

At the end of her piece, our author adds another reason not to focus on silencing these conversations.

Political conversations that remain friendly "can be just as much of a morale-builder as that baseball game or football game," says another consultant. Discussing the first debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in the workplace was a bonding event.

I applaud the choice to address this question and even much of her contributions to the conversation. At the same time, it seems to me there is more to say and reframing this to focus on celebrating the latent opportunity marks the democracy-strengthening path forward.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Chain of Command
As a young, untenured, professor I lived 'outside the chain of command.' Sometimes for good reasons, sometimes not so much, often unconsciously, it seemed I nearly always chose to speak directly with the Provost or President, rather than work an idea up from my Chair, to my Dean, and beyond. I am sure my engaged candor was mostly seen as being a pain in the ass by administrators.

Now, as a lowly associate dean, when I see other faculty doing the same, I want to explain two things I have learned since my own days in the wild west.

First, going directly to the source is, often, very useful and positive. But keep in mind that treating this as our default undermines the formal institutional channels of communication that faculty rely on if we want to have a reliable and real impact on shared governance. So, it is best to see these adventures outside the chain as selective and intentional, rather than the most well-worn path. It is also important to go the extra mile to make these as civil as possible, focused on problem solving rather than just complaining.

Second, it is important to recognize the value of strengthening the chain of command, particularly in an organization (like many) where transparent and timely communication is a challenge. Communicating up the chain, when possible, strengthens Faculty Senate, the union, and even individual academic units by enhancing the formal pathways and institutional networks designed to guide decision making.

Either I have lost my way or there is the beginnings of a decent idea here somewhere.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Elections are Tough on the Heart and Soul
Three women I work with, each of whom I consider an engaged and thoughtful colleague and friend, suggested today that they are wavering between not voting or supporting Trump. One noted and another agreed that he is "a smart man," with a vague reference to his business experience and added, again to agreement, that we "need a fresh face." All three repeated more than once that "she cannot be trusted."

These are very intelligent women my age, with professional jobs. And the tone of their voices indicated to me that these are not the casual statements of those not paying attention. Their was a touch of venom every time one repeated "she cannot be trusted."

Our conversation was not long, but it has stuck with me all day. I wish I had simply said, "I just don't want a generation of our boys growing up with a misogynist as their role model." Instead, I just noted that he is "dangerous," and her corruption is within the normal range, while he is unstable and dangerous.

Yes, I repeated "dangerous" more than once. I was a bit at a loss for words, because I really like all three of these colleagues. I felt weak and cowardly.

With no insult intended, it felt like it would do not good to point out that all the major fact check organizations have found not only that HRC is more honest than Trump (by a long shot) but she is also more honest than most politicians.

Nor did it seem like noting that Wall Street Journal analysis showed that Trump's fortune is less than what he would have had if he had put his father's inheritance into a standard IRA like an retiree does...hardly business savvy.

At least one mentioned she had not heard the recent tape of Trump on the bus, but I quickly dismissed send that to them. Seems like the violates some unspoken work-related boundary, given the political and explicit nature of that recording.

So, I feel stuck.

It is possible that they are Fox News viewers, but if that is the case it is even less likely they will be moved by learning that studies have shown FN viewers are 4 times more misinformed (by their daily news source) than any other viewers.

One mentioned watching the SNL skits and it seemed at least one other might have as well. Is art and satire coming to the rescue again? Is that the only avenue into our otherwise walled off worlds today?

It is possible they just did not want to reveal to anyone who they plan to vote for, but it felt like these were three who would not consider voting for HRC. I could be wrong; would not be the first time.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Empathy Gap
While I remain concerned that Trump might still win, because the anger and frustration he has tapped into is real and pre-existed his vanity candidacy...today I am feeling sorry for my Republican friends.

For me, there is no doubt that Trump has revealed himself to be entirely unqualified to lead, indecent, ignorant, and dangerous. For me, that means supporting a candidate in my own party who is too hawkish and close to Wall Street for me. But that is nothing compared to the choice my Republican friends are facing.

But since Trump was a Democrat about 20 minutes ago, let's imagine that he was somehow the Democratic Party candidate. (Do not dismiss the idea, because we all dismissed the idea that he would ever become the Republican Party candidate too.)

If he was the candidate of my party, would I vote for Romney or Bush, McCain or Rubio or even Ted Cruz?


Without hesitation.

He is that dangerous.

The list of his deplorable characteristics is long, but for me at the core of all of that is that he has a complete lack of empathy for others. So, in opposing him I want to be as empathetic as possible, recognizing the very real pain many of my Republican friends are experiencing right now.

It stinks, but the right thing to do remains clear: we all must unite to reject Trumpism.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Time for Men to be Men: Protect Our Daughters from Trumpanistas
Trump leads among white men by a large margin, but this is based on two things: a blanket of misinformation about Trump and a failure of my fellow white men to step up and be men.

Conservative columnist, Michael Gerson, argues that Trump's huge lead among white men (and even more so among less educated white men) suggests "a movement of white grievance led by an avatar" whose "version of Eden is lounging at the Grotto at the Playboy Mansion," a vision "left behind along with adolescence" for most...but not Trump.

Take a moment to let this image from Matt Wuerker sink in.

A moment...

Here are ten reasons any white man worth his salt could never vote for Trump.

1. We do not want our sons to have Trump as a role model. He is an example of how not to be a real man.

2. Trump is that rich SOB who stiffs his contractors, cheats on his wives, loudly exaggerates his dick size, rates our daughters by their breast size, and laughs about it with his rich SOB pals in the sauna.

3. Trump's record of success as a businessman is BS. His business model is to inherit millions from his father and use it to screw you and I out of what we earned actually working for a living.

4. We do not want our daughters to grow up in an America where the men in their lives grew up with Trump as their role model. These Trumpanistas will make our daughters lives even harder and more dangerous.

5. Trump is that douchebag in the locker room who always takes the jokes three steps too far, making real men cringe as we wonder if he would treat our daughters that way.  We know he would.

6. We do not want our young men and women in uniform to put their lives on the line because Trump went ballistic about a tweet from another world leader or has to defend his imaginary dick size.

7. Trump is clearly unstable, untruthful, unprepared to be president, and he consistently doubles-down on this by insisting only he knows more then our generals.

8. When Trump recently announced that President Obama was, indeed, born here, he told us that he has been intentionally lying to us for many years in order to cripple our government.

9. His only allies in his own party are Guiliani, Christie, and Gingrich, so just a glance around the room confirms that this is a collection of SOBs who have no track record of helping the average white guy or his family, ever.

10. We should be angry about the failure of our government leaders to address the problems we face, but Trump is at the core of this failure, he is at the heart of these problems, and the only thing he shares with us is a loud and angry voice. Otherwise, he is pretty much the captain of Team Screw Average White Guys and has been his entire, born with a silver spoon in his mouth, privileged life.

In this post, I am attempting to speak white man to white man, using the kind of language that animates locker rooms and man caves and gets amplified many times in Trump-talk. It is my hope that any decent man reading this post will not only choose to enthusiastically support HRC as our first female president, but also choose to work hard to persuade others to do the same.

At the same time, this is just one post with one audience in mind seeking one outcome: see the danger in a Trump presidency and act. The larger questions surrounding gender subordination and agency and power also highlighted by Trumpism are not addressed here, but I welcome thoughts on that from others.