Clear and Present Danger

I’m far from a conservative and if you want to put a label on me it would be “progressive humanist” but I highly recommend you watch this 17-minute interview with conservative Max Boot by Walter Isaacson on Amanpour & Company from yesterday:

Donald Trump, his enablers, sycophants, and truculent supporters, are a clear and present danger to the United States. In their support of demagogue Trump, almost half of the people in this country (the almost-half that counts) have clearly demonstrated that they would unwittingly vote to elect someone far more dangerous as long as he or she pushes all the right emotional buttons.

As Mark Twain once said, “It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.”

Almost as disturbing is the insouciant multitude who do not vote. About 33% of eligible voters did not participate in the 2020 presidential election.

Progressives like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are recent examples in a long line of politicians and scholars who offer bold new solutions to seemingly intractable problems—certainly worthy of reasoned consideration and discussion—but at least since the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, the right-wing attack machine has vilified progressives as “communists” or worse. A large segment of our population has been lied to for so long that they now accept these untruths as fact.

In light of the many serious problems that beset us and a political landscape utterly incapable of addressing any of them, I am seriously reconsidering my encore career during these semi-retirement years. I had always assumed that I would spend most of my time and energy continuing what I did in my spare time during my full-time-employment years: providing observational astronomy programs for the public, teaching astronomy classes, and writing about astronomy. As much as I love astronomy, I am beginning to realize that focusing almost exclusively on astronomy is not the best use of my time and energy, given the various existential crises we all face at this moment in human history. I need to be an active participant in the solutions to these problems rather than yet another distracted bystander.

How many of you have reached your retirement years and found—unexpectedly—that the hobbies and avocations that sustained you throughout your working years are not what you want to focus on now?

Most of my adult life, I’ve wanted to live somewhere where the night sky is not compromised by light pollution—especially in retirement. But the election of Trump in 2016, his almost-reelection in 2020, and the continuing “Stop the Steal” movement has been a game-changer for me. Despite my desires, the reality is that almost all of the rural areas in this country are dominated by Trump-supporters. I currently live in a semi-rural community in Wisconsin where 24% more voted for Biden than voted for Trump in the 2020 election. And, even here, we are still being besieged by Trump flags, Trump-Pence signs, and hand-written yard signs with angry missives. During the worst of the pandemic, some businesses here (including at least one restaurant) defied the statewide mask mandate with no consequences, the Republican-controlled state legislature has gerrymandered their way to an unassailable majority in a state with an electorate that is close to 50-50 between the two parties, and the 2020 election results continue to be litigated and investigated. I’m done with this place. From here on out, I’m not going to live anywhere where Biden had less than a 24% lead over Trump in the 2020 election. In searching for that place, I have found the following tool from the New York Times to be quite helpful.

Now, I want to live somewhere with lots of progressives and real opportunities to collaborate and help facilitate meaningful change that will benefit all people. That will no longer be a rural area. Elections have consequences.

10 thoughts on “Clear and Present Danger”

  1. I totally agree with you David. I moved from a very blue (almost too far left toward socialism), but increasingly expensive, light polluted, crowded, and changing climate of Seattle area just over 3 years ago. It seems I’m in the only blue county in NE Wisconsin, but surrounded by red. Biden won this county, but it was a slimmer margin than your 24% requirement.
    As an amateur astronomer also, it’s sad that most of the dark skies are between the larger blue (but bright) cities and seem to lean toward “MAGA” – I refuse to write or speak the name of the twice impeached anymore.
    Sure, it’s not my only hobby, but like the area since I can see the Milky Way over the house (not blazingly bright, but it’s there) and skies are pretty decent. I did improve the situation with a battle with a billboard from Link Media which I won, and it’s still shut off. (My comments are here on your blog a ways back).
    I’m sad, disgusted, exhausted and also scared of the way things seem to be heading with the country. Politics and Pandemic, that’s all we hear about anymore *ugh!*. I go outside on clear nights and wander around the skies and always think of Carl Sagan’s “Pale blue dot” which is so perfect to describe the tiny and fragile place we stand on. There has to be other intelligent life out there, but maybe intelligence is the demise for any species? I’d like to hope not.

    Tom – centrist Democrat.

    1. Hi Tom, I agree, there has to be other intelligent life in the universe (hopefully, in our galaxy), and I’m an optimist in believing that somewhere someone has eliminated war, violence, poverty, injustice, environmental degradation, and supernaturalism. We, too, can solve these problems, but I’m not certain that any of the world’s political systems are up to the task. That’s what makes me a progressive. A lot of smart people have a lot of great ideas and we need to be open to trying new approaches.

      “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”


  2. Dave,

    Consider Democratic New Mexico. We currently live in a rural (read, RED) city, but the largest cities in the state are beautifully blue according to the map you linked to, and you wouldn’t be very far from clear and dark night skies.


    1. Hi Jenny, good to hear from you! It is true that New Mexico is the most Democratic state in the southwest, and it is a beautiful state, too. We have considered moving to Santa Fe, but don’t see how we can possibly afford a house big enough for our needs (1600-2500 sq ft). Why is Santa Fe so expensive? Housing demand exceeds supply. Lots of folks (like me) want to live in a strongly progressive area like Santa Fe. It is the next best thing to having our own country. Right now, we are planning to move to Tucson, which is reasonably affordable and strongly progressive—until you get to the outlying areas which are strongly Trump supporting.

      1. You’ve probably already researched Las Cruces, then. That’s a city I would consider over Santa Fe for certain reasons.

        I’ve been to Tucson. Arizona is lovely and could very well flip blue one day. If we were to move to Arizona, Tucson would be my first choice.

        1. Yes, Las Cruces is a nice city and we have been considering it, though not having Amtrak service is a drawback for us. Santa Fe’s elevation around 7,200 ft. seems quite a bit higher than ideal. Las Cruces at 3,900 ft. and Tucson at 2,400 ft. is a little lower than ideal in a desert environment. In that regard, Alpine, TX at 4,500 ft. or Fort Davis, TX at 4,900 ft. is just about perfect—but the political climate in Texas is terrible.

          1. I don’t even want to visit Texas now. Florida hasn’t impressed me much lately either. Those governors have really ruined those places. I’ve been to 3 shuttle launches in Florida, and someday will go see a Falcon, but I have zero desire to go there anytime soon.

  3. New Mexico was on our list of places when we figure it was time to leave Seattle. At the time we were living on an airpark (which is an airport neighborhood) since both of us are pilots and owned a plane. It was really cool for the 1st year, then realized that most neighbors were so far right that we could barely talk to them. We kind of considered a similar place in Los Lunas, NM on another airpark but figured that would just be more of the same. I’ve been flying (and instructing – just a fun job, not a career) since 1991 and it took me too long to realize that most pilots are far right wing (no pun intended!). We sold the plane (to a good friend of mine – who is a Dem) and the house. We picked Sturgeon Bay, WI which is the most blue county in NE Wisconsin, but we are surrounded by red MAGA crap in other counties. Biden won by a small margin, so this area is kind of a purple state. I just hope we can keep it blue. I’m disgusted by people these days and the pandemic behavior just enforces that.
    I’ve been to Tucson a couple times. Once was for 4 nights at Mt. Lemmon observatory where I took a course on astronomy imaging by Adam Block. Great fun. They do have great night skies there with good lighting ordinances.
    I’m still happy with our choice but I fear the future, politics, pandemic, climate change….things need to change.

    1. Door County, Wisconsin is beautiful, Tom, so I can definitely see why you like living there. As for politics, I sympathize and agree with your comments. I think the two-party system in this country is killing us—literally—and that we would be much better served by more than two viable parties, where if a party gets, say, 20% of the vote, it would receive 20% of the representation. Winner takes all is inherently unfair and contributes to polarization. I will be writing an article about this sometime this winter after I’ve done some more research.

      1. Good idea. I agree that the 2 party is ruining the country. It’s stunning how rotten one side has become, then the other side is too “nice”.
        In November we had an 8 foot wide Biden sign in out yard. We sadly were surrounded by “them” we found out. I left our sign up until the neighbor across the street finally conceded and took down his flag with the name I vow to never speak or write.
        I’m so burned out on politics, pandemic, insurrection, and all the other stuff in between. Just give me a clear night and I’m happy at the observatory, Pink Floyd or Depeche Mode playing, poking around the sky imaging other places far from here. My happy place. 🙂

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