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Soundtracking the Resistance - Government Isn’t Working

The Shutdown, DACA, Trump Possibly Tried to Fire Mueller, Gender Inequality in the Music Industry, and the Passing of Mark E. Smith

Jan 26, 2018 Mark E. Smith Bookmark and Share

We started the week by ending a government shutdown, and end it with the possibility of major changes to immigration law, both good and bad. Plus, Russia continues to plague the White House, men continue to dominate music, and for the second consecutive week we have the sad loss of another favorite.

The Big Event

As the thankfully brief government shutdown commenced last Saturday, it felt like watching all the prominent political figures from both sides of the aisle loading into a clown car before setting off for the edge of a cliff. Accusations and counter accusations flew, with the media gleefully reporting events like we were watching a late-night game show.

It didn’t help that a social media battle broke out with #TrumpShutdown and #SchumerShutdown hashtags finding use depending on whether the blame was being pinned on President Trump or Democrat and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Assigning blame as they motored towards doom seemed to be more important than preventing the doom.

The crux of all this non-agreeing came over the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, allowing some individuals who entered the U.S. illegally as minors to receive renewable work permits to prevent deportation. The Obama-era policy had been rescinded by Trump, his action due to come into force in March 2018. With the federal budget needing sign-off, the Democrats wanted something put in place to help the people facing deportation, and the talk of funding for Trump border walls and the like was deemed too high a price.

This latest round of TV drama brinksmanship didn’t shut the government down for long, but it’s never an enriching experience. There is obviously principle at stake in these matters, as politicians go to the barricades to defend what they believe, but the whole thing is also treated as a larger game. Articles on winners and losers circulate quickly afterwards and eyes turn to how this might affect the upcoming midterms and even the next presidential election. Some simply use it as a chance to signal their virtue, apparently unaware grandstanding isn’t always the best way to bring about the changes they claim to want to see,

All of which make it seem like a game. The perception politics is a game does little to endear it to a public that, under a democratic system, is supposed to be involved and engaged. When playing it like this can lead to vast numbers of federal employees sent home without pay, or asked to carry on doing “nonessential” jobs for free, it’s easy to see where disillusionment comes from.

It doesn’t help that shutdowns are particularly resonant. Most high stakes politicking impacts the country, but shutdowns offer a uniquely direct and instantaneous example. Normally it seems legislators sit there arguing over the same thing for years with no result. At least they can point to results here, even if the result is sending park rangers out into the wilderness without so much as federally provided campfires or toasting marshmallows. But it’s getting something done I suppose.

It’s also not heartening that the system in place leads to these semi-regular shutdowns. What’s the point of electing people to legislate and govern if they don’t seem capable of doing either? Yes, it’s a reflection of the increasingly partisan nature of politics, but the entire federal budget shouldn’t be such an easily graspable chip to throw into the pot contested by gambling addicts, nor should it be so hard to put in place more than continuing resolutions which only punt the problem a few weeks down the line.

We have to do it all again soon, and there’s no guarantee that won’t go wrong. At least it seems Trump wants to act on DACA, proposing measures yesterday (see below) to help those facing deportation. It might still come to nothing though. No wonder people are willing to throw caution and decency to the wind and vote for candidates who really should be beyond the pale. Speaking of the president, he managed to get through the whole affair without exploding into his usual fits of pique. What is the world coming to?

What’s Going On

After the issue played a major role in the run-up to the recent government shutdown, Trump had proposed to Congress a path to citizenship for an estimated 1.8 million young undocumented immigrants. There are downsides however, including a significant tightening of legal immigration channels with visas for family members of U.S. citizens restricted to spouses and minor children, and a chunk of money will be set aside for his much-vaunted wall.

As ever, Robert Mueller’s Russia probe is making headlines, and providing plenty of fun for those addicted to political gossip. Trump appears to be welcoming the chance to take to the stand now. According to the president, he’s “looking forward” to talking to the special counsel and his team. Not as much as his detractors are looking forward to it, one suspects. And all this despite news breaking that the president was looking to fire Mueller last year.

With the exposure of the appalling behavior of powerful men, and the creation of the #MeToo movement to fight for change, you’d think even unremorseful repellent characters could at least pretend not to be unremorseful repellent characters when out and about. Apparently not though, as discovered by a Financial Times journalist in the U.K. who went undercover at a men’s only charity event for the rich and influential, many of whom spent the evening pawing at the young women serving them. Condemnations have come from as high as the British Prime Minister.

Speak Up!

Just in case we ever feel like congratulating ourselves on how far we’ve come, there’s still a long way to go to create that equal world people love to talk about. Take the music industry for example: Dr. Stacy L. Smith and the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative have produced a report with some damning figures on female participation. The study looked across 600 popular songs on the Billboard Hot 100 year-end charts from 2012-2017 with bleak results. Only 22.4% performers were female over that period, dipping as low as 16.8% in 2017 to show this is not an improving problem. The figures are even worse in other areas. Just 12.3% of songwriters were women, and only 2% of producers.

Song of the Week: The Fall - “Living Too Late”

Whatever else Mark E. Smith might have been-and the man that basically was The Fall for several decades was certainly a lot of things-it’s clear he’s irreplaceable. Difficult, eccentric, prolific, cryptic, cutting, and never boring, his death at only 60 has seen an outpouring from the musicians he influenced over the years.

We end this week with “Living Too Late” from 1986, a song depicting the frustrations of aging working-class men, a group much fought after in these populist days. It’s not a pretty picture Smith paints, but like all his work, it never feels false.

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