Maria Gutzeit: Watching the world burn

By Signal Contributor

Last update: Monday, November 27th, 2017

There was a decisive moment during negotiations that ultimately led to the formation of the new SCV Water.  That moment was when we all realized we wanted the same thing. Change happened when adversaries turned to allies.

It’s high time we bring that philosophy to policy making in general. Note I said “policy making” because many have forgotten that is what politicians are supposed to do.  Right now we are mired in political battles of “our side” vs. “their side” and no one is happy.  At minimum, it’s ridiculously ineffective at getting anything done.  At worst, if allowed to persist, it could destabilize us and harm us.

What are the symptoms? Locally we’ve had officers quitting political clubs; people joining political clubs solely to reform them; endorsement votes being reversed or done on the sly, and active political party people re-registering as decline to state. Toss in ample smear campaigns on social media, with activists from both parties, engaging in circular firing squads, taking out their own “team” in political purity tests.  Simply “rinse and repeat” at the state and national level.  Unsurprisingly our voting turnout pales in comparison to other developed countries.

Time Magazine featured pieces within weeks of each other saying  “Democrats are in their worst shape since 1929” and “Roy Moore signals the end of the Republican Party.” People mutter under their breath that they have trouble being pro-business or pro-choice and feeling comfortable in their own political parties.  Otherwise intelligent people quip “Do all Democrats want to pay more taxes?” and “Republicans only care about babies before they are born.”  Repeated, over time, these things become “common knowledge” rather than fake news.

A friend scarily announced that it would be “just easier” if political parties picked people to fill vacated elected offices rather than voters.

Decline to state voters are the fastest rising voter registration in California, according to the Public Policy Institute.  From 1992 to 2016, Democratic registration dropped from 49% to 45% of registered voters.  Republicans dropped from 37% to 27%, and Decline To State increased from 10% to 23% of all voters.  Nationwide, according to the Pew Research Center, more millennials and GenXers (up to age 51) self identify as independent rather than tied to either major political party.

Most of us, probably, are some degree of Raging Moderate.  That was a tagline of Pittsburg Post-Gazette columnist Reg Henry.  I haven’t talked to a single person who is happy with today’s political extremism. Another writer, Thomas Friedman, warns in his bestseller “Thank You for Being Late” about the dangers of instability.  Whether internationally or in our country, our state, and our communities, minding our own business and ignoring chaos are actually mutually exclusive.  Our lives are made better by a sense of progress, of common good.  Our lives are made much worse by living in reactive mode, fighting every little battle from Facebook, to Starbucks slights, to venting about what the evil “other” did to “us” today.

In one of the Batman movies, Alfred warns Bruce Wayne that there is no reasoning with certain adversaries, because “some men just want to see the world burn.”  That is what political extremists are doing to us. We have the power and the smarts to stop it.  If only we can find the will.

We need to look for the win.  A win won’t come from fiery partisanship and special interest scorecards. The win will come when we all sit down and acknowledge common goals and work on that without uttering the words “democrats” “republicans” or “politics.”  Rewarding jobs.  Reduced healthcare costs.  Good schools.  Reliable infrastructure. A world where we don’t have to know if a nuclear missle can reach the US or not.  A tax system where you don’t have people at both ends of the spectrum paying zero and some in the middle paying 45%. A retirement you can count on.  Food, medicine, air and water you know are healthy. Imagine if we focused on electing people to improve and implement good policy, rather than “win” for “our side.” Can we turn away from fake news, finger pointing, foreign ads and fighting? Might we instead demand dialog, lasting solutions, and incremental progress?  Could we cast truly informed votes, every time, in every race? Other than those who just want to watch the world burn, we probably could. Now is a good time to start.

Maria Gutzeit is a chemical engineer, business owner, elected official, and mom living in Santa Clarita.

 

 

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Maria Gutzeit: Watching the world burn

There was a decisive moment during negotiations that ultimately led to the formation of the new SCV Water.  That moment was when we all realized we wanted the same thing. Change happened when adversaries turned to allies.

It’s high time we bring that philosophy to policy making in general. Note I said “policy making” because many have forgotten that is what politicians are supposed to do.  Right now we are mired in political battles of “our side” vs. “their side” and no one is happy.  At minimum, it’s ridiculously ineffective at getting anything done.  At worst, if allowed to persist, it could destabilize us and harm us.

What are the symptoms? Locally we’ve had officers quitting political clubs; people joining political clubs solely to reform them; endorsement votes being reversed or done on the sly, and active political party people re-registering as decline to state. Toss in ample smear campaigns on social media, with activists from both parties, engaging in circular firing squads, taking out their own “team” in political purity tests.  Simply “rinse and repeat” at the state and national level.  Unsurprisingly our voting turnout pales in comparison to other developed countries.

Time Magazine featured pieces within weeks of each other saying  “Democrats are in their worst shape since 1929” and “Roy Moore signals the end of the Republican Party.” People mutter under their breath that they have trouble being pro-business or pro-choice and feeling comfortable in their own political parties.  Otherwise intelligent people quip “Do all Democrats want to pay more taxes?” and “Republicans only care about babies before they are born.”  Repeated, over time, these things become “common knowledge” rather than fake news.

A friend scarily announced that it would be “just easier” if political parties picked people to fill vacated elected offices rather than voters.

Decline to state voters are the fastest rising voter registration in California, according to the Public Policy Institute.  From 1992 to 2016, Democratic registration dropped from 49% to 45% of registered voters.  Republicans dropped from 37% to 27%, and Decline To State increased from 10% to 23% of all voters.  Nationwide, according to the Pew Research Center, more millennials and GenXers (up to age 51) self identify as independent rather than tied to either major political party.

Most of us, probably, are some degree of Raging Moderate.  That was a tagline of Pittsburg Post-Gazette columnist Reg Henry.  I haven’t talked to a single person who is happy with today’s political extremism. Another writer, Thomas Friedman, warns in his bestseller “Thank You for Being Late” about the dangers of instability.  Whether internationally or in our country, our state, and our communities, minding our own business and ignoring chaos are actually mutually exclusive.  Our lives are made better by a sense of progress, of common good.  Our lives are made much worse by living in reactive mode, fighting every little battle from Facebook, to Starbucks slights, to venting about what the evil “other” did to “us” today.

In one of the Batman movies, Alfred warns Bruce Wayne that there is no reasoning with certain adversaries, because “some men just want to see the world burn.”  That is what political extremists are doing to us. We have the power and the smarts to stop it.  If only we can find the will.

We need to look for the win.  A win won’t come from fiery partisanship and special interest scorecards. The win will come when we all sit down and acknowledge common goals and work on that without uttering the words “democrats” “republicans” or “politics.”  Rewarding jobs.  Reduced healthcare costs.  Good schools.  Reliable infrastructure. A world where we don’t have to know if a nuclear missle can reach the US or not.  A tax system where you don’t have people at both ends of the spectrum paying zero and some in the middle paying 45%. A retirement you can count on.  Food, medicine, air and water you know are healthy. Imagine if we focused on electing people to improve and implement good policy, rather than “win” for “our side.” Can we turn away from fake news, finger pointing, foreign ads and fighting? Might we instead demand dialog, lasting solutions, and incremental progress?  Could we cast truly informed votes, every time, in every race? Other than those who just want to watch the world burn, we probably could. Now is a good time to start.

Maria Gutzeit is a chemical engineer, business owner, elected official, and mom living in Santa Clarita.

 

 

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Signal Contributor

  • Gil Mertz

    THAT….was a masterpiece, Maria. Every time I read your intelligent, civil and reasoned columns I marvel that you are a Democrat.

    I think in some ways the Senate battle in Alabama may be reflecting the current mood toward both political parties. Both parties have judged, condemned, and are ready to execute Roy Moore based on the accusations against him without any legal due process. Both political parties keep telling the good people of Alabama how they should vote. If he should win, it won’t be because the people of Alabama are pro-pedophilia unless someone can provide hard and irrefutable evidence beyond the current accusations. It will be mostly a rejection of both political parties trying to tell them what to do.

    • lois eisenberg

      Every time I read your un-intelligent, un-civilized and un-reasonable columns I Know you are a Republican who knows that the president is a liar, has no ethics, has no morals,
      is corrupt, unstable, is a bigot, sex offender !!!

      • Brian Richards

        And every time you author yet another one of your epic whine fests, our hearts are filled with joy! Psssst, you’re still irrelevant and Trump will be President for another 1,148 days….at least!

      • Ron Bischof

        Thanks for underscoring Maria’s point, Ms. Eisenberg.

        • Gary Bierend

          Hers is one of the worst cases of Chronic Tone Deafness I have ever seen!

          • Gil Mertz

            I don’t think it’s an ear problem, Gary. More like a heart problem.

  • Steve Lunetta

    Yep. Dead-on. As Maria brilliantly points out, the path forward is paved with moderation and compromise. We need to focus on what we have in common and not what tears us apart. The CNNs and Fox News of the world want us annoyed, frustrated, and focused on their ever-increasing polarizing harangue. I am hoping that we eventually wake up. Our greatness comes from our ability to work together.

    • Steve Lunetta

      As an example of this, look at the comments here. Very little response. But, if you scream “Obama is a KENYAN!!!” or “Trump is a RAPIST!!!”, people get excited and crawl out of the woodwork to comment. Calm and reasoned thought is not valued while reactionary tripe gets attention.

      • Gary Bierend

        Steve, I suspect there will be a lot more traffic on this, it’s just 12 hours old on a work day after all. I’m retired and I just got round to posting!

      • Brian Richards

        Perhaps it’s because many don’t think the “world is on fire” Steve. We live in a very prosperous country and enjoy a very high standard of living. I believe the globe is also experiencing war less than ever before although it may not seem like it. We are living longer and enjoying more time in our retirement years than ever before. Technology and medical advances are occurring regularly and rapidly. We have a device in our pockets that essentially has all the knowledge that has ever been known at our fingertips. I know to some the fact that we have President Trump makes it seem like the end of the world and to some worthy of a mental breakdown, but he too will pass. If liberals would calm down we could all look on the bright side of life a bit better, as the song says. Whistling…..

        • Brian Richards

          Not only that, but it’s a scientific fact that conservatives are far happier than liberals. That is also something to keep in mind if you’re wondering about the lack of response. Liberals are an unhappy lot, very negative, and generally grumpy about almost everything.

      • Ron Bischof

        It’s important to define what “compromise” means in a practical application, Steve.

        For example, compromise is likely possible on Federal tax policy. However, compromise on First Amendment recognized free speech is not.

        “Moderates” often err in the default belief that objective truth lies somewhere between two opposites in dispute. While that’s certainly possible, the default approach should be skeptical diligence and fact finding.

        Back to Maria’s column point, I found this lecture very interesting and highly recommend taking the time to watch it:

        The Age Of Outrage:
        What It’s Doing To Our Universities, And Our Country
        Jonathan Haidt, Thomas Cooley Professor Of Ethical Leadership, NYU Stern School Of Business

        https://www.manhattan-institute.org/html/2017-wriston-lecture-age-outrage-10779.html

        • Maria Gutzeit

          Interesting. Will check out the link. And yes: “the default approach should be skeptical diligence and fact finding.”

  • Brian Richards

    Good column. I just wish people were more interested in our nation’s debt and what it means historically and for future generations. Hint: it’s not pretty.

  • Gary Bierend

    Very well said. I am one of the growing percentage of DTS voters, as is My Darling Bride®. We both got fed up with the “us against them” mindset prevalent in either of Der Parties.

  • Brian Baker

    Interesting and well-written column, Maria.

    The problem, I think, is that we’re currently engaged in a cultural civil war in this country that’s every bit as profound and fundamental as the one that took place in the 1860s, though so far pretty bloodless. Thank God for that, at least.

    Historically, political rancor, and even violence, is nothing new in this country. Elected representatives were known to whack one another on the head with their canes right on the floors of Congress; Burr killed Hamilton in a duel over politics; and, of course, there was the afore-mentioned Civil War itself.

    World War II was the event that created a rare period of national unity which lasted well into the post-war era of the ‘50s
    and early ‘60s, when the world was rebuilding from that war’s destruction. That was the “Leave It To Beaver” era so many wax nostalgic for, or mock mercilessly, depending on their political inclinations.

    That era came to an abrupt and dramatic end with the riots at the 1968 Democrat Party convention in Chicago, which underscored the rise of the counter-culture that rejected the ethos of the later-named “Greatest Generation” – their parents’ generation – in favor of a radicalized vision of what American culture should be.

    That counter-culture, firmly rooted in the ideology of collectivist socialism, ironically found its home in the very Democrat
    party it had so violently rioted against, and in the subsequent almost half-century rose to positions of prominence and power within that party. As a result of their de facto takeover of that party they’ve managed to radically alter its underlying principles to the point that they now reflect much of the agenda of those original radicals who rioted in Chicago.

    We see much of its strategy deriving directly from Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals”, a primer for the counter-culture of the ‘60s and ‘70s, which is essentially a blueprint for political disruption and manipulation. This is evidenced by class
    warfare pitting the “haves” against the “have-nots”, and the demonization of the “one-percenters”, as well as the creation, proliferation, and perpetuation of “victim” groups, which then go on to even compete against each other for prioritization, leading to further fragmentation and balkanization of the society and culture.

    In such a noxious and confrontational political climate, our national motto, “E Pluribus Unum” – meaning “out of many, one”, a message of unity – has been effectively reversed for all intents and purposes into its mirror-opposite, “out of one, many”.

    In her column, Maria writes: “The win will come when we all sit down and acknowledge common goals and work on that without uttering the words ‘democrats’, ‘republicans’ or ‘politics’… Imagine if we focused on electing people to improve and implement good policy, rather than ‘win’ for ‘our side’.”

    While I think that’s a very nice thought, I also think it’s about as realistic as a kid’s Christmas wish list as he tells it while sitting on Santa’s lap at the mall. The reality is that “politics” is how we determine public policy in this country, and there’s at least one very sizeable portion of the body politic that seems determined to completely redefine the social and cultural fabric of our society. To destroy it in order to replace it with a system that is completely alien to traditional American ideals and constitutional principles.

    In consequence, we see the politicization of almost everything, even sports, which used to be one of the few remaining bastions of political neutrality. Instead, we see the NFL immersed in their “taking a knee” controversy. We see popular
    media – TV, movies, and even books – showcasing political correctness at the expense of entertainment value. Higher education has become, at many universities, a venue of indoctrination rather than enlightenment.

    In this adversarial climate, I believe the wish for reconciliation and cooperation, though well meant, has very little chance of being realized.

    • Brian Richards

      That analysis was a lucid and comprehensive Brian. Reconciliation and cooperation is all fine and good, but when it’s one side doing all the cooperating and the other demanding even more, enough is enough. Has this country become more or less conservative in the last 40 years? Are our inner cities better or worse off? Is our education better or worse? Do we adhere to the Constitution more or less? Is the federal government more receptive to our right to petition it or less? Do we have more or less individual liberty? If you look at almost every single one of the original Bill of Rights, have those rights been expanded, stayed the same, or restricted? So it begs the question, how much more reconciliation and cooperation is required of us before enough of us say, screw that!

      • Brian Baker

        Thanks, Brian.

        Exactly right, and those benchmarks are a good litmus test, of which we all know the results.