an informed-voter test is not the same as a “literacy test”

Es­ti­mated reading time is 9 min­utes.

ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE SOUTH, states below the Mason-Dixon Line gave “lit­eracy tests” to voters to de­ter­mine their level of ed­u­ca­tion. While these tests were the­o­ret­i­cally for ALL voters, they were—need I say, need­less to say?—given dis­pro­por­tion­ately to black voters. Some of these tests were nigh on im­pos­sible to pass, re­gard­less of one’s level of education!

For ex­ample, Louisiana’s 1964 test had these “ques­tions”:

 Spell back­wards, forwards.
 Print the word vote up­side down, but in the cor­rect order.
 Place a cross over the tenth letter in this line, a line under the first space in this sen­tence, and a circle around the last the in the second line of this sentence.

While these tests have car­ried the stench of the worst kind of racism for decades, the­o­ret­i­cally, they suit me just fine. So, the re­cent Supreme Court de­ci­sion in Shelby County vs. Holder over­turned Sec­tion 4(b) of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. This sec­tion man­dated fed­eral over­sight of changes in voting pro­ce­dure in ju­ris­dic­tions that have a his­tory of using a “test or de­vice” to im­pede enfranchisement.

Lousy choices mean sleaze­balls can get elected with 25% of the pop­ular vote!

That is, this sec­tion ex­ists to keep racist ju­ris­dic­tions from im­ple­menting so-called tests to pre­vent le­git­i­mate, reg­is­tered black and His­panic voters from casting their ballots.

Well now, this Supreme Court de­ci­sion (the usual 5-4 vote, with the five racists ap­pointed by Reagan and the Bushes in the ma­jority) can ac­tu­ally be put to GOOD use.

De­vise an in­tel­li­gence test based on cur­rent po­lit­ical and eco­nomic events that would in­di­cate the voter’s aware­ness of the FACTS in the con­sen­sual re­ality in which he or she lives and votes.

And, again, need­less to say, apply it across the spec­trum to every single voter!


LiteracyTest photo2

Once upon a time in the northeast

Jon May and I grew up to­gether, our fam­i­lies living a few blocks from each other in the leave-it-to-beaver-like neigh­bor­hoods of Kingston, Penn­syl­vania, in the ’60s. Somehow, I be­came what others per­ceive as a “hippie” while Jon ended up a “cowboy.” The former (in­ac­cu­rate) per­cep­tion should be easily un­der­stood by a glance at my photo in this site’s sidebar.

The latter per­cep­tion is made be­cause Jon lives in Texas on a small ranch with his wife and a lot of horses. There are no cows but nonethe­less, we call such people cow­boys, not horse­boys.

For­tu­nately, the Lone Star State’s predilec­tion for growing secession-minded righties was not the reason that Jon se­lected it as his home. 

It was the horses.

He is one-half of Horse­Flicks, a com­pany that pro­motes horse­man­ship in a va­riety of ways, no­tably in making documentary-style movies of peo­ple’s horses. Texas is a good place to run that kind of business.


LiteracyTest cartoon3 justices

Car­toon by Rob Rogers for The Pitts­burgh Post-Gazette.

None-of-the-Above as a choice

We oc­ca­sion­ally dis­cuss the better-known politi­cians from Texas and how much of the rest of the country is often baf­fled as to how they get elected. Re­cently he remarked:

“The problem is the best people to help run the [state] won’t run.  Only the sleaziest who can stomach the en­tire cam­paign / media / elec­tion process will run, so we are left with lousy choices, no matter what. Lousy choices mean more voter ap­athy, so these sleaze­balls get elected with 25% or less of the pop­ular vote.

That’s not a majority.

The reason Perry was elected for fif­teen years was that the De­moc­rats would line up against him each elec­tion and the op­po­si­tion vote was there­fore frac­tured among sev­eral can­di­dates. So he’d waltz back into of­fice with 20% sup­port, and then he acts like he’s invincible.

To win an elec­tion, I think a can­di­date should have to have over 50% of the el­i­gible voters to win, not those who still have the am­bi­tion to go out a vote, but 50% of all el­i­gible voters.

And ‘None of the Above’ should be a le­git­i­mate choice; if NOTA wins, you start over with NEW can­di­dates until someone gathers enough votes to beat out NOTA. Of course, I think con­scrip­tion is still the best answer.”


LiteracyTest cartoon2 Burnett 1

Countering all that money

Around the same time I re­ceived the above from Jon, I also re­ceived an email from End Cit­i­zens United that con­tained a poll. Here are the email’s contents:

“Pres­i­dent Obama just raised a bold idea to counter the in­flu­ence of money in pol­i­tics: Manda­tory Voting. Last elec­tion, just 36.4% of Amer­i­cans turned out to vote.

Be­cause of the dis­as­trous Cit­i­zens United de­ci­sion, bil­lion­aires like the Kochs are free to spend un­lim­ited amounts to de­ceive this small slice of the elec­torate to vote Republican.

Take our in­stant poll to tell us if you sup­port or op­pose Pres­i­dent Obama’s idea to counter the in­flu­ence of money in pol­i­tics by making voting manda­tory for Amer­ican citizens?”

The poll con­sisted of one ques­tion: “Do you sup­port Pres­i­dent Obama’s idea of making voting manda­tory for Amer­ican citizens?”

The op­tions were Yes, No, and Undecided.

I se­lected Yes.

There was a com­ment sec­tion, to which I added, “I have be­lieved in manda­tory voting since be­fore I was old enough to vote for McGovern!”

That is true, but it is now my second choice among my po­lit­ical “be­liefs.”


LiteracyTest photo1

An informed voter test 

My first choice is an ideal: uni­versal elec­tronic voting ma­chines that begin each elec­tion with a quiz in the form of ten (10) true-or-false state­ments about the events upon which one is casting one’s vote.

Local rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the De­mo­c­ratic and the Rep*blican par­ties can each se­lect five state­ments. (The two big boys can de­cide whether to in­clude or ex­clude third par­ties through the ques­tions they submit. Or ac­com­mo­da­tions can be made for in­de­pen­dent par­ties with a cer­tain mem­ber­ship or who gather a cer­tain amount of signatures.)

I am not sug­gesting that cit­i­zens need a re­fresher course in pol­i­tics or cur­rent events. The ten state­ments can be in­sult­ingly stupid, just as long as they are ger­mane to the elec­tion. To avoid lengthy de­lays in voting, a time limit of ten min­utes can be set on the test.

Any number of other minor tweak­ings could be done to make this work. But if you don’t know what is hap­pening in any given elec­tion, you do not get to vote in that election.

So, my “be­lief” re­garding Pres­i­dent Oba­ma’s state­ment above is that ei­ther every­body in every elec­tion is re­quired to vote as a duty of cit­i­zen­ship, or only in­formed voters get to vote. Manda­tory voting is usu­ally re­ferred to as com­pul­sory voting and can be con­sid­ered a form of egal­i­tarian voting. It would seem to be the voting that we would ex­pect the De­mo­c­ratic Party to back.

The in­formed voting could also be con­sid­ered a form of elitist voting and would seem to be the voting that we would ex­pect the Rep*blican Party to back.

Al­though my sug­gested true-or-false quiz can be con­sid­ered an Elite Voter Test, for this essay I am re­fer­ring to it as the In­formed Voter Test.


LiteracyTest cartoon1 dreamers

Car­toon by Matt Davies for Newsday.

It ain’t no ‘literacy test’

Such a test is not to be con­fused with what was called lit­eracy tests in some states prior to the Civil Rights era.

“A lit­eracy test refers to state gov­ern­ment prac­tices of ad­min­is­tering tests to prospec­tive voters pur­port­edly to test their lit­eracy in order to vote.

In prac­tice, these tests were in­tended to dis­en­fran­chise African-Americans. For other na­tions, lit­eracy tests have been a matter of im­mi­gra­tion policy.

Southern state leg­is­la­tures em­ployed lit­eracy tests as part of the voter reg­is­tra­tion process starting in the late 19th cen­tury. Lit­eracy tests, along with poll taxes and extra-legal in­tim­i­da­tion, were used to deny suf­frage to African-Americans.

The tests were usu­ally ad­min­is­tered orally by white local of­fi­cials, who had com­plete dis­cre­tion over who passed and who failed. Ex­am­ples of ques­tions asked of Blacks in Al­abama in­cluded: naming all sixty-seven county judges in the state, naming the date on which Ok­la­homa was ad­mitted to the Union, and de­claring how many bub­bles are in a bar of soap.” (Wikipedia)

The In­formed Voter Test that I be­lieve in is based on the need for voters to be making their de­ci­sion based on aware­ness and un­der­standing of the issues—not on pop­u­larity or name recog­ni­tion, party iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, in­cum­bency, but es­pe­cially on ma­nip­u­la­tion through demagoguery. 

“A dem­a­gogue is a po­lit­ical leader in a democ­racy who ap­peals to the emo­tions, fears, prej­u­dices, and ig­no­rance of the lower classes in order to gain power and pro­mote po­lit­ical mo­tives. Dem­a­gogues usu­ally op­pose de­lib­er­a­tion and ad­vo­cate im­me­diate, vi­o­lent ac­tion to ad­dress a na­tional crisis; they ac­cuse mod­erate and thoughtful op­po­nents of weakness.

Dem­a­gogues have ap­peared in democ­ra­cies since an­cient Athens. They ex­ploit a fun­da­mental weak­ness in democ­racy: be­cause ul­ti­mate power is held by the people, nothing stops the people from giving that power to someone who ap­peals to the lowest common de­nom­i­nator of a large seg­ment of the pop­u­la­tion.” (Wikipedia)

“In pop­ular usage, dem­a­goguery simply means ‘ef­fec­tive rhetoric on be­half of a po­lit­ical agenda I dis­like.’ Not only is that a use­less de­f­i­n­i­tion, but, if any­thing, it in­creases the like­li­hood of people being per­suaded by demagoguery. . . .

Dem­a­goguery is a dis­course that promises sta­bility, cer­tainty, and es­cape from the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of rhetoric through framing public policy in terms of the de­gree to which and means by which (not whether) the out­group should be pun­ished for the cur­rent prob­lems of the ingroup.

Public de­bate largely con­cerns three stages: group iden­tity (who is in the in­group, what sig­ni­fies out­group mem­ber­ship, and how loyal rhetors are to the in­group); need (usu­ally framed in terms of how evil the out­group is); what level of pun­ish­ment to enact against the out­group (re­stric­tion of rights to ex­ter­mi­na­tion).” (Trish Roberts-Miller)

The ex­is­tence of dem­a­goguery is the pri­mary reason that the Grand Old Party would not sup­port even the Elite Voter Test: as exit poll after exit poll has shown over the past twenty years, Amer­i­cans who vote for Rep*blican can­di­dates are often clue­less as to the is­sues in the elec­tion in which they are voting.

This is al­most uni­ver­sally true of those voters who rely ex­clu­sively on Fox News for their “news.” Many of the ‘com­men­ta­tors’ that Fox uses or sources that they turn to can be con­sid­ered dem­a­gogues of a sort.


LiteracyTest 1

Voter turnout is a problem

For this and other rea­sons (like the fact that the sta­tion presents ed­i­to­rial com­ments as news pre­sen­ta­tions), those people who rely on Fox often score lower in cur­rent events tests than people who watch no news or read no news­pa­pers at all!

So, as it is al­most cer­tain the Reps won’t sup­port ei­ther move­ment and the Dems are un­likely to sup­port the Elite Test, then we are left with the Manda­tory Voter pos­si­bility, hence my sup­port for such a piece of legislation.

There are many web­sites with the pros and cons of com­pul­sory voting, and I agree with points on each side. The in­ter­ested reader should go to his fa­vorite browser and type in “com­pul­sory voting” and do his own investigating.

I found this in an ar­ticle ti­tled “What We’ve Seen in Aus­tralia With Manda­tory Voting” by Lisa Hill, a pro­fessor of pol­i­tics at the Uni­ver­sity of Ade­laide, Australia:

“America has a se­rious voter turnout problem, yet none of the at­tempted reme­dies have been able to solve it. The problem is not just that turnout is low but that it is also so­cially bi­ased. Failure to vote is con­cen­trated among groups al­ready ex­pe­ri­encing one or more forms of de­pri­va­tion, namely, the poor, the un­em­ployed, the home­less, in­dige­nous peo­ples, the iso­lated, new cit­i­zens, and the young.

This trans­fers greater voting power to the well-off and causes poli­cies to be geared dis­pro­por­tion­ately to the in­ter­ests of voters (politi­cians aren’t stupid: they know who their cus­tomers are). The le­git­i­macy of Amer­ican democ­racy is thereby un­der­mined, as­suming you agree that po­lit­ical in­equality and un­rep­re­sen­ta­tive­ness are bad for democracy.”


LiteracyTest VoteAndFlag 1000

FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page was taken by Bruce Davidson and was lifted from the ar­ticle “Voting Rights in America: Two Cen­turies of Struggleby Bruce Hart­ford. About this ar­ticle, Hart­ford notes, “This brief time­line de­scribes an Amer­ican his­tory of op­pres­sion, per­se­cu­tion, and dis­crim­i­na­tion in re­gards to voting rights. But in all of the events de­scribed here, those af­fected were not sub­mis­sive or pas­sive vic­tims, rather they fought for their rights with what­ever means they had.”



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8. No ar­gu­ment and I don’t think we are ever going to get any­thing like it back. Makes us sound “con­ser­v­a­tive,” nyet?

And since you men­tioned it (and I know this is heresy so start gath­ering up the fag­gots for my bon­fire (I hope readers know what a faggot re­ally is and un­der­stand it is not a gay slur here....) but I don’t con­sider my­self a Re­pub­lican, a De­mo­crat, or an in­de­pen­dent, I’m not lib­eral, con­ser­v­a­tive or mod­erate. I’m a pedes­trian who de­cides is­sues based on what the issue is, so on some­thing I might be lib­eral, some­things con­ser­v­a­tive, some­times I un­der­stand both po­si­tions, but I hate when people try to pi­geon hole the public into one of those defining slots like De­mo­c­ratic lib­eral or Re­pub­lican con­ser­v­a­tive, and that’s your brand you carry for life, you are de­fined by these terms. I’d like to be­lieve that the public is more than a char­ac­ter­i­za­tion, that they are free thinking and they can be con­ser­v­a­tive on some is­sues, lib­eral on others. Free thinking, being ra­tional, un­der­standing the pros and cons, the up­side and down­side, the im­pact and con­se­quences of our de­ci­sions. (I know..too much free thinking going on here...)

I re­member when straight party ticket voting was the if one party had all the an­swers re­gard­less of the char­acter of the can­di­dates run­ning, you weren’t voting for a can­di­date, you were voting a po­lit­ical the­ology, can we be any more blind than that? I guess so, when people scurry to find a fac­tion in our po­lit­ical so­ciety and hunker down with their re­spec­tive title as R or D, L or C, and find some com­fort in being branded and pi­geon holed for the rest of their life. What ever hap­pened to free thinking and choice on what­ever the issue hap­pens to be? 

I’ve just never found my­self so blinded to re­ality that I fall into a par­tic­ular cat­e­gory, time and time again. I’ve never found the need to align con­sis­tently with a party or phi­los­ophy, re­gard­less of how I re­ally feel on a subject. 

I’m not sure I un­der­stand people who do, it’s like mind con­trol or some­thing where someone pro­claims they are a Re­pub­lican con­ser­v­a­tive, no matter what the issue, by gawd, the party knows what is right for the country and everyone living in it, or someone is branded a De­mo­c­ratic lib­eral and that somehow is painted as a bad thing. Grow up people, you have a brain, every­thing is not black and white, there is a lot of gray area if you think about it; but this people branding, with no leeway for com­pro­mise, is what has brought this country and out po­lit­ical system to total, and un­re­pen­tant grid­lock. Some people are proud to be branded and pi­geon holed...I don’t un­der­stand why one would want to be, it seems to mean they have given up on free though and per­sonal de­ci­sions. Are we that blind, sub­servient and com­pliant to a po­lit­ical ide­ology? I guess so.

Ohhh, and munch on this... while everyone was lining up to be branded, the spe­cial in­ter­ests poured in, and re­ally con­trol every­thing be­cause politi­cians are too busy den­i­grating and vil­i­fying any be­lief or po­si­tion that isn’t theirs. It’s SICK. 

And now we have the In­ternet which by mon­i­toring your com­puter has de­vel­oped pro­files on all of you which can and are, being sold to anyone who wants to know just who you are. If you dig deep enough you can find your Face­book and Google pro­files which are cre­ated by what you and your com­puter are doing. There was a news story the other day on how your iPhone tracks your move­ments, knows where you go, where you stop, where you live, and that fea­ture is buried deep into your iPhone set­tings. Why does the iPhone and car­rier need to know where I go, who I see, where I eat, and where I live? What busi­ness is it of theirs, after all, I paid for the phone and pay for the ser­vice, but it seems I am paying to pro­vide every­thing about my life to some face­less name some­where for what pur­poses I can’t even imagine.

The Book “1984” was not all that far off from 2015. It’s scary but for the 20-something mo­rons who de­vel­oped this ca­pa­bility and think this is cool to in­vade your com­puter, phone and pri­vacy and draw con­clu­sions on your ge­netic makeup and then sell it to the highest bidder...well, I hope in 50 years it bites you in the ass when you can’t evac­uate your bowels without half the world knowing about it, and watching it on live TV. I won’t be here, so enjoy what you created.

I know, I know...I’m a heretic (and a pedestrian).

1. I might add that I be­lieve a large part of voter ap­athy is not that people aren’t in­ter­ested in “the process” but rather a total lack of in­terest and sup­port in the can­di­dates. Who wants to vote for one of two can­di­dates that have no ap­peal what­so­ever? It’s vote for this clown, or vote for that clown- or vote for no one. 

I want nei­ther to be honest. It’s been soooo long since I voted “for” a par­tic­ular can­di­date, in­stead of voting “against” one can­di­date. I WANT someone I be­lieve in to lead, someone I sup­port, but the choices all come down to two un­de­sir­ables, so I vote to try and keep one out of of­fice, rather than cast a vote to put someone in office.

Sad, I know. 

2. Many of you re­member Ross Perot. He is an icon in Texas, where he has ac­com­plished so much for the state and the people. When high school kids in ath­letics were failing in their aca­d­e­mics to play sports, Ross suc­cess­fully took on the issue and got passed “No Pass-No Play” leg­is­la­tion for the schools. Es­sen­tially, if your grades weren’t there, you didn’t play foot­ball or other sports—academics was more im­por­tant than sports.

“Heresy” many said, as foot­ball is a re­li­gion in Texas, but by damn, Ross got it done and stu­dents’ aca­d­e­mics began to rise. Our high school stu­dents could now read and write when they grad­u­ated. Ross was no stranger to taking on se­rious is­sues, and he was in­cred­ible at kicking aside the bull­shit and get­ting things done—and people in Texas knew about it. 

He would have made an ex­cel­lent Pres­i­dent be­cause he was task ori­ented, driven, not owned by spe­cial in­ter­ests (what a con­cept...) and wanted what’s best for the people and es­pe­cially the country. How many other com­pa­nies or politi­cians would lead a raid against the enemy to free his em­ployees who were being held cap­tive? They would still be rot­ting in jail if it was anyone else.

So while Ross was a legend in Texas, I dis­cov­ered through my busi­ness travels in other states that the media had painted him as a com­plete and utter whack-job. People could not be­lieve (based on their media per­cep­tion of him) that I was sane to con­sider him a vi­able can­di­date. And that’s one of the main prob­lems we have, in that the first Rule of Media is “Don’t ever let facts get in the way of a good story.” So the media can rip you apart, whether it’s true or not, and then you are al­ways playing defense.

They will sift through your garbage, dis­cover that you got to second base with a girl who was “al­most” 17, and while working a Summer job, your cash reg­ister drawer was short 15 cents, not once, but twice. So there are very few can­di­dates who can even stomach the process and ridicu­lous media grind. 

Who wants to sub­ject them­selves and their family to that? Only the usual bunch of clowns who are unashamed at what­ever the media can dig up. When the media couldn’t get a choke hold on Ross Perot, they went after his family. I can’t blame Ross for putting an end to this dis­gusting ploy. When you wrestle with pigs in the mud, at some point you re­alize the pig en­joys it. 

3. Just look at the line-up of clowns pan­dering for votes: it’s the SAME cast of losers we saw on the stage last time, there are no fresh faces any­where. Hey, the country didn’t want you then, why the Hell are you back again, like a plague of locusts?

Did you think we forgot you held no ap­peal to us in the last election?

But they don’t care, with enough money be­hind them, if they can be the last man or woman standing, they will get elected be­cause that’s the only choices we have. Take it or leave it America. 

4. So for votes it’s a choice be­tween “I don’t like you” or “I like you even less” or “Why bother to vote, I hon­estly don’t like ei­ther can­di­date” in which case the third choice be­comes the feeling of the ma­jority of the country, and people ARE voting by NOT voting. I un­der­stand walking into a voting booth and wanting to scream be­cause there isn’t one person worth voting for, so I hold my nose and vote against the worst of the bunch by voting for someone who is only slightly less worse.

There—I voted by God! I’ve done my civic duty by voting for someone I re­ally don’t want to see in of­fice and their only virtue was the fact that I liked the other can­di­date even less.

So bozo the clown gets elected and then we have four more years of so­cial media bashing and all the nasty Obama jokes can now be re­placed with the name of our new Prince of Clowns. 

5. No wonder people won’t vote, it re­ally doesn’t matter who gets in (more heresy) be­cause they are all owned by spe­cial in­ter­ests. Just watch: all the promises you hear about tax re­form (I STILL want to know how our new Texas Gov­ernor Ab­bott earned $300,000 last year, paid $104 in taxes—and that’s not a typo—and got a $19,000 re­fund on top of that), se­curing the border, cre­ating jobs, re­new­able power, im­proving education—all the col­lec­tive bull­shit politi­cians think will garner them a vote—won’t change a thing.

None of it will get done, be­cause the fact is, spe­cial in­ter­ests run the country. Why would Gov­ernor Ab­bott want tax re­form? Shit, he paid $104 in in­come tax on $300,000 of in­come. He will fight tooth and nail against tax re­form, the kind you and I re­ally need.

But I don’t have the money to buy in­flu­ence be­cause it all went to the gov­ern­ment. Gov­ernor Ab­bott has money to fight against tax re­form be­cause he only kicked in $104 to the government.

Is this a great country or what????

6. All the middle class jobs that were once the main­stay of our economy and pro­vided sta­bility for our middle class are now else­where, shipped to China and other coun­tries. I picked up a greeting card the other day and flipped it over to see how much it was, and on the bottom it read “Printed in China.” This is how bad it’s gotten, we can now ship paper to China, have them print a greeting card with some toxic shit I can’t even imagine, ship the damn thing back here cheaper than we can print it in the US ourselves!

And then they want $4.50 for this printed mas­ter­piece, so someone is making a bloody for­tune on this card, and no one in the US ben­e­fits from the process (ex­cept for Hall­mark). So we have dec­i­mated the middle class, so they can’t af­ford to buy a can­di­date the way spe­cial in­terest can, so the middle class has no power or in­flu­ence any­more, just the il­lu­sion that their voice matters.

It doesn’t.

7. About a week ago, the sleaze­ball Ted Cruz said for a $500,000 con­tri­bu­tion for his break­fast (I feel like a pauper going to Den­ny’s for the Grand Slam now) he will grant them “ac­cess” to him. Yes, for half a mil­lion dol­lars you can bend Ted’s ear and have counsel with the King. He will sell you access !!!!

And if you don’t have that kind of change lying around, you can still wipe the dog shit off his shoes—that’s the kind of ac­cess you can have—but it’s better than nothing right? Could we be any more bla­tant about selling America to the highest bidder?

Ted ran one of the sleaziest cam­paigns in Texas his­tory to get elected, but the media out­side of Texas paints him as some kind of evan­gel­ical saint, who ac­tu­ally cares about the little person. Kind of like Ross Per­ot’s sit­u­a­tion only in re­verse. The media is glossing over what a sleaze­ball Ted Cruz re­ally is, and I’m not sure why the truth is being cov­ered up—more spe­cial in­ter­ests at work here.

People: RUN as fast as you can away from Cruz—he is dan­gerous! You didn’t see the kind of things he is ca­pable of from his last cam­paign here in Texas.

So not only do we have lousy can­di­dates, everyone of them is owned by spe­cial in­ter­ests. I hon­estly think con­scrip­tion is an an­swer, be­cause the process we have will not im­prove. It’s bad for the people and get­ting worse, but it won’t change be­cause it’s all about spe­cial interests—they run Con­gress, they run the Pres­i­dent, they have a stran­gle­hold on everything. 

8. It’s not the same country I grew up in. Okay—back under my toasty rock.