TRAINS TO NOWHERE
OBSTRUCTING GOVERNANCE AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC POLICY
It is hard to figure out why it seems so difficult to be a White guy in today’s America, even though I am a White guy and should be able to figure it out. The problem seems to be that there are just too many people in America who are not White guys, or even White guys and gals combined. Whenever this feeling seems to overwhelm some White guys, their solution to the perceived problem is to try to preclude something that non-White guys want – entry into the country, voting rights, equal opportunity, racial justice, access to meaningful healthcare, and way too often, the simple desire to live in peace or continue to live at all.
So, now that the mass shootings have started again in earnest in America after seemingly taking a small break during the height of pandemic restrictions, it is again mostly White guys out front depriving lots of others of their lives and sense of security. Of course, who can forget the hordes of White guys storming the US Capitol a few months ago trying to prevent their fearless leader from the perceived insult of a permanent return to his beloved mansion in Florida.
It is worth asking who these White guys are who continue to board their trains to nowhere, callously leaving misery, destruction, and even death in their wake. Some are among the really challenged people in America. Among other things, they seem to be intellectually incapable of seeing the connection between incredibly easy access to firearms and mass human slaughter in the American landscape. Find an assault weapon, and you are likely to find a challenged White guy.
However, those White guys fueling the nation’s resistance to humane immigration policies, to easy access to the polls to affect democratic change, to a racial reckoning and equal opportunity, to universal access to meaningful healthcare, and even to a comprehensive public health response to the pandemic are all on the same trains to nowhere, along with their gun nut buddies. Tragically, they enable America to fail and they empower each other to add critical mass to their efforts.
Many of these White people live in neighborhoods with a lot of other White people only some of whom share their views. Some live in more diverse neighborhoods or pockets of poverty where they often hide their views until for some reason they have had enough of “others” and snap. But a whole bunch of these White people were among the 74 million people who voted for Trump in the last election.
Worse yet, they and their Republican cohorts are now determined to thwart any Biden administration effort to govern. Governing is not the same thing as being a government. Governing is, in its most basic sense, the exercise of authority thru the making of policy and the administration of that policy.* President Biden often has the authority to act but to exercise that authority within America’s constitutional framework requires collaboration with, and the cooperation of, other institutional elements of that framework.
Take immigration policy as an example, since there is often talk of “comprehensive immigration reform.” The Biden administration can determine policy and administer elements of that policy through executive action. It can humanely allow Latino children to enter the United States and then make sure that they have a bed, a blanket, and enough food to sustain them. After that, figuring out how these immigrant minors should be processed and treated becomes much more complicated unless it is viewed as a component of a much larger US immigration problem that requires “comprehensive reform.”
Enter Congress, enter the Republicans in Congress, enter the White guys on the trains to nowhere and that comprehensive reform is almost certainly doomed. So what happens to the children? With some luck, they disappear into the fabric of the world of undocumented immigrants striving to find a place in a nation where a lot of White guys don’t want them to be.
Although the immigration example is bad enough, there is more bad news from the White guys on the trains to nowhere. They don’t seem to want anybody but themselves to have a go at voting. It would be nice to say that this effort will fail in that exceptional "model democracy" known as America. But hold on, the White guys have a plan – you change the voting rules to get better results. This is easier than changing the policies, programs and personalities that many of the voters rejected under the old rules.
Just to make sure that nobody mistook the latest White guy effort at voter suppression for a serious effort to make voting easier, those wacky Republicans in the Georgia legislature, aided and abetted by the Republican governor, just criminalized providing food and water to their fellow citizens waiting in voting lines.** That is, of course, only part of what they did, but enough to fully demonstrate the lengths to which the White guys on the trains to nowhere will go to preserve their shrinking political influence.
You see, prior voting practices in Georgia often left voters of color waiting in longer lines than their White counterparts, so instead of legislating to reduce wait times for everybody, someone came up with the bright idea of making it harder to wait in line. (This plan will work even better if the White guys also make it a crime to sell those little cooler bags to anyone who isn’t a White guy.)
I wish I were making this up, but I am not. The Biden administration’s capacity to govern is being challenged not by people who have a sincere agenda of constructive reform for the nation, but by those same kind of White guys on their trains to nowhere who have just criminalized giving grandma a drink of water while she waits in line to vote.***
Even some things as potentially lifesaving for White guys as wearing masks and seeking COVID-19 vaccines seem challenging to way too many of them. While they should overwhelmingly embrace these measures if for no other reason than if only people of color get vaccinated and White guys die off, their situation gets even more desperate. Yet, the world has watched while many White Guys on their trains to nowhere have overtly contributed to tens of thousands of COVID deaths in the US and continue to try to thwart coordinated government efforts to address the nation’s pandemic and public health crisis.
For some reason, even their significant contribution to the deaths of so many has failed to pause the White guys on their trains to nowhere long enough to stand back so that those of good will in government have the space they need to function and the support they need to govern.
For as long as the mindless obstruction continues, the nation’s governmental institutions will be significantly impeded from pursuing the long-delayed promise of a more just and equitable America. And it will be that much harder to demonstrate that good government is the key that unlocks the door.