Don Rogers: Where responsibility belongs

Don Rogers
Don Rogers

San Francisco writer, historian and activist Rebecca Solnit in Literary Hub this week: “I crunched the easily crunched numbers last spring and found out that about 11 percent of Democratic voters in the 2016 presidential election were white men. This told me something really important: that in this context white men are a fairly small minority by gender and by race, even under the extraordinary corrupt conditions of that election that held back huge numbers of people of color from full and fair access to the ballot. If and when we have free and fair elections, even leaving out the coming nonwhite majority, the Republican Party will wither away outside its red pockets and the Democratic Party will be accountable to a far more progressive constituency.”

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Or not.

I understand I’m entirely dismissable as just another diabolical, mansplaining white male, though I did vote for the Democratic candidate in that election, however reluctantly. Still, I’d suggest the problem is not the one Solnit outlines above.

… the problem is the nearly half of us who have no interest in voting at all, not even for president.

Anyway, good luck with a strategy or hope of alienating white males on reflex. They do tend to actually vote, after all, along with perhaps a dispiritingly large number of otherwise OK white women who pair themselves with these contemptable men in viewpoint as well as other bonds.

Progressives of all colors and creeds and everything else failed the country in 2016 not from being prevented their chance to vote, but something far more pernicious: Failing to get off their you-know-whats and actually cast ballots.

Too many of those who did participate in our most basic civic duty failed to vote responsibly, either choosing a protest vote for a candidate who could not win or at the farthest extreme, the one of every 10 Bernie Sanders supporters in the primaries who voted for Donald Trump in the end. Still takes my breath away. I get their depth of feeling, just not the rationality involved in such a swing.

In other words, don’t blame just the white dudes for that guy. There was more to this than that, and might well be again in 2020 if the same excuses hold sway.

Once upon a time not so very long ago, people of color and women had real obstacles to voting. By comparison, in a few states Republican schemers have managed to make the process more inconvenient for a few people not big on voting in the first place.

Suggesting today’s annoyances are anything like the Jim Crow era or before strong women won suffrage in 1920 dishonors real heroes, frankly. They overcame very real and scary obstacles to eventually prevail. No excuses.

This is like Zig Ziglar’s adage about learning: “If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you.”

Anyone today in America who is eligible and wants to vote can do so. The problem isn’t people prevented or discouraged from voting. No, the problem is the nearly half of us who have no interest in voting at all, not even for president.

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I’m not sure which party is in more trouble, as much as each has tilted toward their extremes. Back and forth we’re doomed to go, wilder by the term, each party less and less willing to consider the other, and eager to first undo everything the other side did. Both hear only their own drums beating, pretending that other America doesn’t even exist.

Neither seems to notice an erosion in party membership as the unaffiliated ranks tick up.

The progressive constituency, as Solenit puts it, is at least as likely to hollow out from inside as the current Republicans are vulnerable to withering from their party’s margins, that rather large “pocket” between New England and California.

Our state’s homelessness, housing and PG&E illuminate the holes in progressive governance even as callous conservatism pays a price for blindness to the environment, human dignity and the vast world beyond our borders.

It seems each party gets it partly right and largely wrong. So why can’t we shed the extremes a majority of Americans see on each side and do what’s right for the economy, the environment and all people?

Even white males, bless us our mansplaining. We can start by everyone making sure to vote in 2020, no excuses. It’s really not that difficult.

Beware, though: As you gain power you also pick up responsibility. Governance is supposed to be accountable to all the people.

Don Rogers is the publisher of the Sierra Sun and The Union, based in Grass Valley. He can be reached at or 530-477-4299.

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