The Rising Waters

Carl Hassmann's 1906 drawing of rising waters threatening the American middle class.

“The Rising Waters” is even more salient now than when Carl Hassmann drew it in 1906. Then, as now, American society was in a desperate state, thanks to decades of the rich getting richer and leaving everyone else behind. The Gilded Age had created vast industrial wealth while consigning millions to exploitative working conditions and poverty. Landed security became more elusive as labor-saving machinery displaced rural folk and opportunities to homestead shrank with the “closing” of the American frontier. Cities became clogged with Americans seeking the respectability and comfort that came with new white-collar jobs.

Hassmann imagines centralized wealth as a rising tide about to overwhelm and destroy all traces of American society. (Only the very wealthy are safe, being depicted as man-eaters rather than as humans themselves.) A desperate family clings to the slippery rock of “opportunity.” It is destitute, homeless, and helpless, facing extinction. The political foundation of hope, which republican government represents, is likewise disappearing fast, as the rising waters threaten the Statue of Liberty.

More than a century on, Hassmann’s drawing freshly describes today’s America, where the interests of the wealthiest engross part of what should belong to the whole population. America’s reverence for wealth has fueled a style of growth that privileges large economic interests, while starving ordinary people and their dreams. Congress operates for purposes other than to empower citizens and channel the will of a self-governing people. The present era of flood, fires, and pestilence has further alienated Americans from the glossy national story that the mainstream media package and sell. The hypnotic tide of personal “expression” on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram paradoxically obscures the anomie and isolation that pandemic-weary Americans are suffering.

Ultimately, Hassmann’s masterful illustration is a hopeful “message in a bottle” from an earlier time. In 1906, observers despaired over the nation’s sad state, going so far as to declare its promise lost. Yet, thanks to a rising generation of reform-minded leaders (think Theodore Roosevelt and Jane Addams), the pendulum began to swing the other way. American government once again moved in pursuit of greater opportunity and fairness, renewing its concern for personal character and the common good. After decades of moral mediocrity and corruption, the United States took itself in hand and soared to new heights, reaching an apogee after World War II. Can today’s leaders prevail over the self-destruction sinking the nation now?

Image: from this source.

Where Democracy Is Greener


Crouched form sculpted by an unknown Haitian artist, probably enslaved.


The Haitians at Del Rio

Over one weekend, some 15,000 people, mainly Haitians, suddenly appeared at the Mexican border of the US, wanting to come in.  They fled Haiti because Haiti is broken down.  Its resources are meager and mismanaged.  Its political culture is corrupt; its government, dysfunctional.  Its last democratically elected president, Jovenel Moïse, was mysteriously assassinated, possibly by a clique of private outside adventurers.  He left Haitian government in a precarious position, for he had been hollowing out and disabling its already puny civic institutions.  Haiti is a Somalia in the making, where utter lawlessness could follow a decline in stable control. Continue reading

States That Went For Trump In 2020

Where Trump beat Biden in 2020, his margin of victory was often wide.  Listed below are the states where Trump prevailed, in order of his relative popularity.  The results show where Democrats are least competitive, where Trump prevails because of an absence of viable competition.

After that is a second list, of the ten states most closely decided in 2020.  In four states (Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania), Biden prevailed by a margin of less than one percent. Had these states gone the other way, Trump would still be president.

The political crisis of the United States will resolve when a rival party becomes ideologically competitive in the many states where Trump dominated comfortably last time around.  Many of these states are small.  How to woo votes away from Trump in these areas is an experiment worth embarking on prior to the election of 2024.


KEY: State (Electoral votes) NUMBER OF VOTES CAST FOR TRUMP / Margin of victory

    • Wyoming (3) 193,559 / 43.3 %
    • West Virginia (5) 545,382 / 38.9 %
    • North Dakota (3) 235,595 / 33.3 %
    • Oklahoma (7) 1,020,280 / 33.1 %
    • Idaho (4) 554,119 / 30.8 %
    • Arkansas (6) 760,647 / 27.6 %
    • South Dakota (3) 261,043 / 26.2 %
    • Kentucky (8) 1,326,646 / 25.9 %
    • Alabama (9) 1,441,170 / 25.4 %
    • Tennessee (11) 1,852,475 / 23.2 %
    • Utah (6) 865,140 / 20.5 %
    • Nebraska (4/5) 556,846 / 19.1 %
    • Louisiana (8) 1,255,776 / 18.6 %
    • Mississippi (6) 756,764 / 16.5 %
    • Montana (3) 343,602 / 16.4 %
    • Indiana (11) 1,729,516 / 16 %
    • Missouri (10) 1,718,736 / 15.4 %
    • Kansas (6) 771,406 / 14.6 %
    • South Carolina (9) 1,385,103 / 11.7 %
    • Alaska (3) 189,951 / 10 %
    • Iowa (6) 897,672 / 8.2 %
    • Ohio (18) 3,154,834 / 8.1 %
    • Texas (38) 5,890,347 / 5.6 %
    • Florida (29) 5,668,731 / 3.3 %
    • North Carolina (15) 2,758,775 / 1.3 %
    • Maine (1/4) 360,737* / -9.1 %

*Votes garnered in Maine gave Trump 1 electoral vote out of a possible four.

The most closely contested states in 2020: Biden’s narrowest margins

    • Georgia (16) B by 0.2 %
    • Arizona (11) B by 0.6 %
    • Wisconsin (10) B by 0.6 %
    • Pennsylvania (20) B by 0.7 %
    • North Carolina (15) T by 1.3 %
    • Michigan (16) B by 2.6 %
    • Nevada (6) B by 2.7 %
    • Florida (29) T by 3.3 %
    • Texas (38) T by 5.6 %
    • Minnesota (10) B by 7.1 %
    • New Hampshire (4) B by 7.1 %

SOURCES
Vote totals from https://www.archives.gov/electoral-college/2020

Margins from https://cookpolitical.com/2020-national-popular-vote-tracker
Downloadable blank outline map from JFK Library

 


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