Democracy, In Some Ways, Is Like A Love Relationship

There was a time just a few years ago when people in the US felt the world was relatively set and would continue largely as it was. People found meaning in their careers, not through political action. It was easy to be complacent. If you had a home, enough to eat, owned a TV and watched it,  and were absorbed by social and other digital media, it was easy to think any apparent crisis was just that—apparent, not real, more like a commercial interrupting the important stuff.

 

I read an article yesterday in the Intelligencer by Rachel Bashien, Zak Cheney-Rice, Amelia Schonbek and Emma Whitford entitled: “12 Young People on Why They Probably Won’t Vote.” These young people were clearly responding not only to the reality developing when they were growing up but to the election of T. “2016 was such a disillusioning experience.” They were disheartened by the election results. They saw their ideals shot down. And now many of them have trouble motivating themselves to take action. Only an inspirational leader could motivate them to act, but the Democrats are just not inspirational.

 

Other sources say our young adults are more likely to vote then in previous years. According to MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle and Ali Velshi, an NBC News poll of GenForward Millenials found that 31% are planning to vote, 26% probably will vote. That doesn’t sound very good, but it’s up from 19% in 2014.

 

Let’s examine the implications of the way of thinking spelled out in the article. They, we, didn’t get what we wanted, so why act now? We failed once; why try again? It would be better, more fun, to go back to TV, entertainment, and to social media and forget about the world outside our imagination.

 

This way of thinking robs us of power. It places the responsibility for what happens inside us on something or someone external to us. I wrote a blog just a month ago about how people in a love relationship can attribute their own feelings of love to the loved one, and thus make themselves feel powerless. Or they think, when they feel anger, the person they are angry at will suffer from their anger. They therefore let their belief blind them to the reality of how they suffer from their own anger.

 

Likewise, instead of learning how to participate more effectively in politics, we let ourselves feel powerless about effectively influencing the political reality. We mistakenly think we need someone else to inspire us, and that we ourselves are not strong enough to do so. …

 

So, on Tuesday, let us vote. Let us vote not just to win (and we must do everything we can that is humane and effective so we do win), but also to learn how to be even more humane and effective next time.

 

**To read the entire post, please go to The Good Men Project.

 

Ending The Politics of Hate Begins With Us, In The Voting Booth

I woke up early this morning thanks to a nightmare. I, as an adult, was back in my childhood home looking through the front window. Several white men with stern faces and a business-like or zombie-like manner were nailing boards over the windows from the outside. They were nailing in my wife and me. I yelled to my wife that we had to get out—and then awoke.

Afterwards, I lay in bed with the image pressing down on me. In my mind I took the dream further, imagining us grabbing our phones and money, chasing our cats out an upper story window as we followed them out and ran. I imagined the attackers might be planning more than just locking us inside.

Back in the late 1970s I wrote a play that was produced locally. It was indirectly about the JFK assassination, or more accurately, about a woman, Wilma Tice, who was called by the Warren Commission to give testimony related to the assassination. After Wilma heard the President had been shot and was being taken to Parkland Hospital, in Dallas, she drove to the hospital. It was only 15 minutes from her home. When she was there, she saw Jack Ruby walking next to the stretcher that was carrying JFK’s body after it was wheeled inside the hospital.

The Warren Commission inquiry was established about a week after the assassination, on November 29th, 1963. She later wrote to them about what she had seen. But after receiving a letter from the Commission telling her where and when she would give her testimony, she received threatening phone calls and faced tremendous opposition. It was never made clear how anyone learned she was going to testify.

The night before she was supposed to appear before the Commission, she was home alone; her husband worked nights. She woke up to find herself “barricaded” in the house; her windows and doors blockaded shut. She couldn’t get out until her husband came home and broke her out.

When she arrived for the interview, instead of supporting or compelling her testimony, they told her that, if she feared for her life, maybe she should not testify.

The whole image of people locked into a structure by others who hated or wanted to silence them reverberates through history. Consider what happened to Jewish people locked in Synagogues or African-Americans locked in churches that were burned.

When I hear about T’s actions and statements, I feel they themselves are a form of terrorism….

**This blog was submitted before Saturday’s horrible act of terrorism in a Pittsburgh synagogue. This act is truly upsetting and we must meet it with thoughts of compassion for the people hurt and killed, their families, the whole congregation, the police and other first responders.

 

To read the whole post, go to The Good Men Project.

 

 

T Is A Hurricane Of Historic Proportions

I have many calm moments, when I meditate, exercise, walk in the woods, talk with friends or simply breathe. Beautiful moments. And then—I turn on the radio or my phone and who knows what insanity might ensue.

Like everyone I know, since the Kavanaugh hearings and his appointment to the Supreme Court, and almost two years of the T administration, I have become overly sensitive to bad news.

It’s just eight days since I heard the news about Hurricane Michael smashing into the Florida panhandle with winds of up to 155 miles an hour (on Wednesday, October 10). The hurricane is now recognized as the strongest to strike the coast in 100 years. And it grew so quickly, from a category 2 on that Sunday, to almost a category 5 on Wednesday. It grew so quickly probably due to waters overheated by global warming, the same global warming the GOP deny despite the overwhelming scientific evidence.

Nature itself seems to be yelling at us to wake up to what we humans are doing to our world. The day after the hurricane, a neighbor called to tell me of two sightings of Fishers, a carnivorous mammal related to weasels. They have only recently returned to this area (along with other recent and not-so-welcome additions, like coyotes, coy-wolves, and ticks) and kill squirrels and other small animals, including porcupine and hare, occasionally wild turkey, bobcat, and even house cats. They are excellent climbers and can be vicious. I immediately went to the front door of my house to call in my cats.

This administration puts us all on a continual threat alert and I think this is exactly what they want. People continually stressed are not as likely to think clearly or feel powerful or vote. According to Tali Sharot in the book The Influential Mind: What the Brain Reveals About Our Power to Change Others, fear is most effective in influencing the behavior of others under two conditions—when what they are trying to do is cause inaction and the person they’re trying to influence is already anxious.

 The last two weeks and the hearings and discussion on Judge Kavanaugh were especially bad. They were a continual assault, a political hurricane of historic proportions threatening not only women but all of us who are not misogynists, not white nationalists or sycophantic supporters of the President, or who are not in favor of considering corporate rights or the rights of the wealthy as more important than any other rights.

These GOP attacked anyone who called for a real investigation into Kavanaugh’s past and were especially vicious in their attacks on any of the women who came forward. In fact, T even mocked Dr. Ford.  He called for holding those who made “false” claims against Kavanaugh liable. What about false claims by, or in support of, Kavanaugh? Would Kavanaugh or any his supporters who lied or rushed to hide the truth be held accountable?

Many wondered: was the GOP rush to judgment due to fears about what will happen in the November election? Or was something else involved?

The Supreme Court is going to hear a case called Gamble v US. It involves a felon arrested for possession of a firearm. It could, however, have grave implications if T is ever impeached, indicted, or tries to use his power to pardon anyone from his administration or campaign who have been prosecuted for crimes or called to testify to the Mueller investigation….  

 

To read the whole piece, please click on the link to the Good Men Project.

 

 

 

 

T Is A Hurricane of Historic Proportions

I have many calm moments, when I meditate, exercise, walk in the woods, talk with friends or simply breathe. Beautiful moments. And then—I turn on the radio or my phone and who knows what insanity might ensue.

 

I just heard the latest news about Hurricane Michael, which struck the Florida panhandle with winds of up to 155 miles an hour. It is now called the strongest hurricane to ever strike the coast. It grew so quickly, from a category 2 on Sunday to almost a category 5 today, probably due to waters overheated by global warming, the same global warming the GOP deny despite the overwhelming scientific evidence against their position.

 

Yesterday, a neighbor called to tell me of two sightings of Fishers, a carnivorous mammal related to weasels. They have only recently returned to this area and have been known to kill squirrels and other small animals, including porcupine and hare, occasionally wild turkey, bobcat, and even house cats (although rarely). They are excellent climbers and can be vicious. I immediately went to the front door of my house to call in my cats. After the Kavanaugh abomination and almost two years of T, I am, like everyone I know, a bit sensitive to bad news.

 

This administration puts us all on a continual threat alert and I think this is exactly what they want. People continually stressed are not as likely to think clearly or feel powerful.

 

The last two weeks and the hearings and discussion on Judge Kavanaugh were especially bad. They were a continual assault, a political hurricane of historic proportions threatening not only women but all of us who are not misogynists, not white nationalists or sycophantic supporters of the President, or who are not in favor of considering corporate rights or the rights of the wealthy as more important than any other rights.

 

These GOP attacked anyone who called for a real investigation into Kavanaugh’s past and were particularly vicious in their attacks on any of the women who came forward. In fact, T even mocked Dr. Ford.  He called for holding those who made “false” claims against Kavanaugh liable. What about false claims by, or in support of, Kavanaugh? Would Kavanaugh or any his supporters who lied or rushed to hide the truth be held accountable?

 

Many wondered: was the GOP rush to judgment due to fears about what will happen in the November election? Or was something else involved?

 

The Supreme Court is going to hear a case called the Gamble v US. It involves a felon arrested for possession of a firearm. It could, however, have grave implications if T is ever impeached, indicted, or tries to use his power to pardon anyone from his administration or campaign who have been prosecuted for crimes or called to testify to the Mueller investigation.

 

The Gamble case involves the question of whether “double jeopardy” is limited by “dual sovereignty.” In other words, whether a state can separately prosecute anyone after they were tried by the Federal government.

 

Right now, T can pardon people for Federal crimes, but anyone so pardoned can still be prosecuted in state courts. T wants to destroy this possibility. And Kavanaugh could help make that a reality. He might be the deciding vote in expanding T’s and the GOP’s power, so they can’t be held accountable for crimes they commit or their assaults on the rest of us.

 

While hurricane Michael was striking Florida, hurricane T was in Erie, Pennsylvania at a fundraiser and then a rally, yelling “lock her up” and such. Even a threat to the lives and property of millions of citizens did not stop him from focusing on himself and trying to rake in money.  He needs to be stopped.

 

And let me repeat what many have been advocating: each of us needs to vote, make calls, volunteer as an election official, write postcards to get out the vote—to do whatever we can to energize ourselves and throw T and his supporters out of office.

 

**Thank you to Jill Swenson and other friends who first posted on FB about Gamble v US.

Does The Core of the GOP Care At All About Democracy?

I can’t remember a time or an election that has more meaning than this upcoming one. Last week, the faux hearings on Judge Kavanaugh made this abundantly clear. We will be voting soon not only to elect representatives to Congress but to save and hopefully expand democracy. We will be voting to save our rights and the very idea that the government should serve the people of the nation, not just the rich and the politicians.

 

We will be voting to save our planet, the future of our children and our sense of ourselves as caring beings. Everyone who cares about these issues must vote.

 

This is not hyperbole. We not only have a president and an administration that uses lying and distorting the truth as daily policy, but a president who attacks the free press constantly, calling it “the enemy of the people,” calls reporters who oppose him “disgusting,” and those who believe in the freedom of the press as “foolish people.” We have all seen and heard this repeatedly.

 

We have heard T attack the institutions that keep us safe, try to undermine votingcivil and legal rights, act for his own corrupt interest and not the nation’s, and even collude with the dictator of a foreign and hostile government to undermine our voting system.

 

Kevin Baker, in a recent article in the New Republic, describes what almost everyone who pays attention has observed: our politics has become open warfare, with the aim being not to serve the people but to make sure the other party never again comes to power. It is not to foster democracy and serve the people but to seize power and keep it, by any means.

 

The Senate hearings last week clearly showed there was no intent to get at the truth of what happened to Dr. Ford or to examine Kavanaugh’s qualifications for the Supreme Court. There was only the fight for power. How can you call something a hearing when the conclusion is decided in advance—when Mitch McConnell announces in advance that no matter what happens they will plow on through to pick Kavanaugh? There was no intention to provide a humane response to a brave woman clearly describing an awful attack on her.**

 

But what many of us forget, many of us who wonder how anyone could support T, is that a good portion of his supporters do not think living in a democracy is important to them. It is not only the President who does not care about democracy, free speech or a free press.

 

Pew Research Poll in March showed that only 49% of Republicans thought a free press, with the ability to criticize the government, was important for a democracy. 76% of Democrats said it was important.

 

A recent poll from the Economist/YouGov showed something similar. It asked Americans if they would support “permitting the courts to shut down news media outlets for publishing or broadcasting stories that are biased or inaccurate.” Americans in general were roughly divided, 28% in favor, 29% against. When looked at through the lens of political affiliation, 45% of Republicans were in favor of the idea. About twice as many Democrats and Independents opposed the idea.

 

The T administration has even removed language about freedom of the press from its guidebook for U. S. attorneys.

 

Now, I have to admit that I think a “news media” organization should seek as much of the truth as possible, without political or other bias. But how will something like bias be determined or who will do it, especially with an open internet? How will a diversity of viewpoints be protected as we protect the nation from “fake news”? Is the only way to accomplish this through better education in critical thinking, compassion, and agency?

 

And when we combine these poll results with T’s attacks on anyone who does not support him, and the sycophantic support he gets in public from almost every GOP politician, we reveal an enormous problem.

 

Almost two years ago, just before T was sworn in, Diane Rehms had a show on the question: Is Liberal Democracy now a stable form of government? What movements in Europe and the US are primary threats to democracy? It was possibly her last show on NPR. The speakers on the show (Moises Naim, Alina Polyakova, and Yascha Mounk) discussed how many Americans have begun to take democracy for granted. Would they say this today?

 

Yascha Mounk said that, when asked how important it is to live in a democracy, more than two thirds of Americans born in the 1930s said it was of top importance. They rated it number ten on a one-to-ten scale. Fewer than one third of millennials in the US today thought (in 2016) it was important to live in a democracy.

 

Mounk and the other speakers speculated that many millennials do not understand what most alternatives to democracy might be like— what it would be like to live under a dictatorship or an oligarchy, for example, where the “people,” or the majority of citizens of a nation have no institutionalized source of power. They do not grasp that a dictatorship or any form of one-man or one group rule means the loss of many rights and freedoms. They never fought or lived under a Fascist government, for example. In fact, there are a few GOP candidates running for office in this country now who espouse Fascist policies.

 

Although a Pew Research Center Poll shows millenials to be the most liberal generation in the U. S., in many respects, there is some disturbing evidence against that interpretation. According to Jean Twenge, a Professor of Psychology and author, nearly two fifths of Millenials (born 1980-’94) and iGen (1995-2012) voted not just for a GOP candidate but one “affiliated with a white nationalism many thought had died out long before iGen was born.”

 

Many do not understand that democracy in a large, diverse nation, means compromise, and are focused only on the negative side of democracy—how much effort it takes, or how frustrating it could be. They do not understand that once the institutions of a democracy are undermined (as is happening today, under T), it is extremely difficult to build them back.

 

Democracy only works if a great majority of citizens take an active part in politics and their communities. We are learning, now, how much we need to research and think about the issues, imagine and value diverse viewpoints, consider the well-being of others as part of our own well-being, and act and speak up to hold our political representatives accountable.

 

And we must vote. We must vote to preserve the possibility that we will have a meaningful voice in the future. On November 6th, all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 35 in the Senate will be contested. We must encourage every one we know to vote. We must think about it as a national imperative, if necessary even take the day off to do it. We can not afford to be complacent, like many were only two years ago. There is little or nothing that is more important right now than voting for those who will oppose the present administration and strengthen democracy. This is a grand opportunity to act. be strong, to stand up. We can do this. This is not hyperbole.

 

**Senator Flake called for a pause in the rush to vote, in order to allow for a limited FBI investigation of Kavanaugh—for one week. One week! Will this be just a ploy to allow those in the GOP with a disturbed conscience an excuse to vote for a candidate they know to be unfit? Or will it lead to an end to or even an easing of the now bitter war for power? If the latter is true, then the inspiration provided by one woman’s bravery might help save US democracy.

 

***This post was syndicated by The Good Men Project.

 

 

 

 

 

Who Leaked What and Why?

I find it funny when I hear people ask why Russia would want to interfere in our elections. Isn’t it obvious? It is not just to put Trumpf in power so he could honor an agreement with Putin to remove the sanctions the US placed on them. It is to crash our whole political system. To isolate us from other nations and undermine our power and what’s left of democracy. This is not the old cold war revivified. It is a new species of conflict. It’s not a battle so much of armies but of information, of insight versus self-deceit, or agency versus pacifity.

 

Right now, our government is broken. And what happened this past week has just highlighted the whole situation.

 

The New York Times article, about Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein speaking with members of the FBI and others about the possibility of wearing a hidden microphone to record the President, exemplifies what has happened to our government and news media. The information was leaked to the Times by unnamed sources. How do we hear that news?

 

The differences in coverage (of the NYT’s coverage) of this story are striking. When I first heard the story on CNN and other media, what was emphasized in the story, in my opinion, was that Rosenstein spoke to others about secretly recording the president. I thought their coverage (hopefully unintentionally) fed the Trump narrative of a there being conspiracy against him.

 

The Washington Post and David Corn of MSNBC and the Huffington Post discussed the news differently. They cited several sources, people who were actually in the room when Rosenstein’s comment was made, who said the comment was sarcastic. It was not something Rosenstein really intended to do (or ever did). People are allowed to talk with others about what action is appropriate. These sources go on to stress the whole context in which the comment was made—which was after Comey was fired. Their focus was on the chaos in the White House and people in government trying to figure out what to do about it. I focused in the article on what Rosenstein’s state of mind was working for the DOJ in this time.

 

According to the article in the NYT, Rosenstein said “The New York Times’s story is inaccurate and factually incorrect. …I will not further comment on a story based on anonymous sources who are obviously biased against the department and are advancing their own personal agenda.”

 

So, who leaked this information? And what was the purpose of the leak? Right wing media in general immediately called for the firing of Rosenstein (although even Fox News soon had some doubts about the facts of what Rosenstein did and if Trumpf should fire him).

 

The NYT which has, of late, been so crucial in the fight to hold Trumpf accountable, to reveal his lies and the dangers he represents, may have now given him and his allies the excuse they dreamed of (or conspired to achieve?) to fire Rosenstein, appoint a lackey to oversee or end the Mueller Investigation, and try to destroy what’s left of our democracy. It certainly has distracted many people from the revelations about Cohen and Manafort and the threat they present to Trumpf.

 

It almost distracted us, or maybe for a few minutes, from the GOP misogynistic response to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and the threat Judge Kavanaugh and the GOP agenda poses to our nation. Almost. The opposition to Judge Kavanaugh and the revelations of GOP perfidy continues to grow.

 

The two main parties of our government are almost at arms with each other. Will Russia be the ultimate winner of the battle? Or will this newest conflict lead to the impeachment of the President for obstruction of justice, collusion, etc., etc.? I hope we all vote in November, as well as do all we can until then to fight for the resurrection of our rights and the protections that government should afford us instead of take from us. We can’t afford to lose.

 

**I called the NYT comment line and shared some of what I wrote above. Maybe you could call and do the same? (844-698-6397) In the past 2 years, The NYT has been crucial in terms of holding Trumpf accountable and limiting his attempts to undermine democracy. The article on the comments by Rosenstein does the opposite. It provides Trumpf with the excuse to fire Rosenstein and further undermine the rule of law in this country. Any possible good served by the value of the information, if accurate, was undermined by the possible consequences. I hope you can publish an article, by Thursday, that reveals something that will stay T’s hand—or maybe how you were duped. And how Rosenstein should not resign.

Stories From the Borderline of Hate and Suspicion

In the locker room of the gym yesterday, three men changing their clothes near to me were talking about incidents of road rage and random anger they had witnessed. They were upset about how the mood on the street had changed since the last election. I could easily relate to the discussion and was relieved they seemed to be on “my side” of the political divide. But the remarkable thing was that on previous days I had felt suspicious of two of the three men. They had looked angry to me, aggressive, not on my side at all. Taking sides means sides to stay away from.

 

When politics gets as divisive as it is now, it reaches into almost every aspect of our lives. It’s not just online and newspapers, television and radio. It is on the street, in the gym, work, and travel. We don’t know from what side of the borderline of hate and division the driver of the car next to us might be or the person on the check out line behind us—or the policeman standing at the street corner. Hate and suspicion are contagious. This is one reason the level of anxiety and depression amongst college and k-12 students is at all-time highs.

 

And this is obviously not the first time the U. S. has been so divided. Think of the Civil War, the revolution, the suffrage, civil rights, and anti-war movements, etc. I grew up in the 1950s and 60s. Back then I was under the illusion I could discern sides by looking at the length of hair, the clothing, the age, and facial expression. All such illusions are shattered now, although sloganed t-shirts and confederate or Nazis flags speak all too clearly.

 

In December 1970, after vacationing in Berkeley, California, I had to return home to New York City. I didn’t have much money so I arranged for a drive-away car. It was easy to get such cars back then. In exchange for driving someone’s vehicle to their home for them, I could receive free transportation.  An Englishman I had met in a theatre workshop, who I will call Adam, was going to share the ride with me.

 

Adam had met a woman, Nancy, and she wanted to go east with us. That was fine with me. What wasn’t fine was that Adam had developed a drug dependency. He had been on speed and other drugs for weeks. I told him we could only travel together if he stopped using. No drugs were allowed in the car.  He agreed.

 

We left a few days after our talk. I started the driving. It was winter and a storm was forecast for that night so we had to get across the Rockies before the snows began. We drove south towards LA before turning east….

 

To read the whole story/personal essay, go to Heart and Humanity magazine, which published this piece.

Ridding Ourselves of Mental and Political Malware

Last night, I had a dream that Trumpf had planted malware in my mind. I don’t remember how, only the result. I couldn’t feel good about anything, couldn’t experience any happiness unless I did his bidding.

 

Like many dreams that synthesize multiple levels of meanings, this one revealed a twisted truth. T is trying to plant malware in our minds as well as into our political, economic, and social systems. He is doing this through actions, tweets and the statements he uses to manipulate headlines and capture attention. Even though so much of what T says and does is despicable—taking young children from their parents, starting to end the ban on asbestos and allowing its import from Russia, attacking anyone who speaks out against him, not protecting our voting systems, education and health care, etc., etc.—I think he prefers any headline over none.

 

And it’s not just the news media; it’s talk shows and social media. He is good at grabbing attention. So much of the news and entertainment media can’t or won’t resist him.

 

And it’s easy to get tired from all this. The bad news comes fast and furious. It is difficult to feel good about the future when his policies threaten that future. It’s hard to feel good about our lives when the lives of so many people are being undermined or destroyed. But doing his bidding by getting caught by his “information wars” only makes us more powerless, unhappy, and angry.

 

How do we remove the malware? Unfortunately, we can’t just download malware bytes. We can only find ways to resist. We resist by learning to be more aware and mindful of our own patterns of thinking and feeling. We can take care of ourselves and learn how to recognize the signs of anxiety and depression so we can let them go more readily.  We can strengthen our minds, our bodies, and our relationships so we can enjoy life despite him. It’s not just what he says and does that is so dangerous. It’s the values and ways of looking at the world that generates what he says and does that is dangerous.

 

And as odious as this may seem to some of us, and liberating to others, we can make political work a normal part of our lives. The midterm elections are about 3 months away. We have much to do.

 

When someone is pointing a gun at us, we can’t get caught up in debating the caliber or model. We take it away or get away. A gun is pointed now at each of us and we can’t run away.

 

We can’t lose sight of the goal or be fooled by distorted facts and statements meant to confuse and divide. Divide and conquer wasn’t just a strategy of ancient Rome. The GOP and T would like nothing more than to set progressives against liberals or moderates, debating whether health care for all is socialist or not or which candidate is more progressive.

 

In the past the GOP twisted the national discussion by turning ‘compromise’ and ‘liberal’ into dirty words. They made taxes and social support programs seem sinful, and accused the Democrats of class warfare when they pointed out how the GOP tax cuts were, yes, an example of class warfare—of the rich robbing from the poor and middle class. We need to resist their manipulation of imagery, language, and values. (Please read George Lakoff’s The ALL NEW Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate.)

 

In the last election, some of us were led to believe Hillary couldn’t lose, so we voted for Jill Stein. Others were taken in by arguments (and possibly bots) saying Hillary was as bad (or worse) than T. They would like us to bad mouth and treat should-be allies as enemies.

 

A democracy can only function when its people (including politicians) clearly consider and use a diversity of viewpoints to create new, broader understandings of issues and events. In order to hear and respect different viewpoints, a democracy must be a bit slow moving and require compromise. When anyone with different views is considered an enemy, meaningful discussion and debate is destroyed. Democracy is destroyed.

 

A recent article in the Guardian, written by Adam King and Emma Rees, explained how the Labour Party in Britain came back from a bad loss in 2015 to win in 2017. It created optimism with a bold agenda built on policies that excited people because they spoke to people’s real needs. The article recommended that Progressives in the US apply these same ideas, to work from within the Democratic Party and work with the DNC to win elections and create change.

 

King and Rees recommended that Democrats, and all those who oppose what T’s GOP is doing to our nation and our world, need to work together to support candidates who actually represent our views and interests, and will put those interests above even their own desire for office.

 

The candidates we support need to be able to work with others in congress to not only oppose T but advance democracy, at the ballot box and in the economy. When such candidates actually win, we have a better chance of unseating T and destroying his malware. (We need to research and hopefully support our local Democratic candidates. If you live in the 23rd Congressional District of Central New York, Tracy Mitrano is a candidate for Congress whose values I support. I also firmly support Michael Lausell for the N. Y. State Assembly 58th district.)

 

And as many in the centrist and progressive media have pointed out, this is already happening. Not only are more progressive candidates running as Democrats, but a report by the Center for American Progress shows there’s broad support among college educated and working class voters of all races in favor of a higher minimum wage, higher taxes on the wealthy, and more spending on health care and retirement. And more people are taking part in the political process. According to the Pew Research Center, the turnout in this years primary contests for House Democrats is 84% higher than in 2014. For Republicans, it is 24% higher.

 

There certainly have been more political protests than any time since the 1960s. According to Vox, 20% of Americans have participated in political protests over the first 16 months of the T regime. It has only gone up since then.

 

Many of us can’t stand to hear T or his Congressional GOP sycophants lie so openly and rip us off so brazenly. We are angry and afraid. There clearly is much to be angry about. T is the “King of sleaze,” a would-be dictator and probably a traitor, etc. And the DNC, the should-be leader for people’s rights and economic justice, has often acted contrary to those goals. However, I hope our anger and fear can be used as energy to wake us up to what we need to do, not turn us away from hearing or seeing what frightens and disgusts us.

 

I hope I now know, and we know, to think two, three, or four times before believing or sharing on social media or elsewhere anything that divides the opposition to T and his quest for dictatorship. That we know not to get arrogant or tricked into thinking a battle is won until it actually is won. And we take care of others and ourselves while we vote T’s GOP out of office and work to create a political system more responsive to the rights, freedom, actual needs and well-being of the great majority of people.

 

 

 

How Did It Happen?

What a week. Every week, every day, T provides a new outrage. This week, we all saw T fail to hold Putin accountable for hacking into Democratic and Republican computers and emails and the computer systems of state electoral boards. He also sided with Russia against U. S. intelligence assessments. He basically colluded in public with Russia. Yet, the GOP, after a few harsh words early in the week, by the end they let it all slide.

 

How did politics in the US get so bad? What role did economic manipulation play in the increasing divisiveness in the U. S. since the early 1990s or before? Institutional racism, sexism, anti-semitism, etc. played a huge role, but I need to center for the moment on economics or my head and heart will spin ⎼ too much information for me to digest.

 

Why are Democrats seemingly so ineffectual and the GOP so ready to support whatever T does, even when he puts Russia before US interestsdictatorship before Democracy? Why does the GOP walk so much in lockstep, ready to stomp on the humanity, rights, health care and income of so many in the middle and lower classes?

 

And the goose or lock stepping of the GOP is not just an example of politicians afraid of their base or afraid of losing their position, as many in the centrist media portray it. The base of the GOP itself is something relatively new in US politics, even though it has been developing for years. Since Reagan, the GOP has become increasingly intransigent and devoted to only one small group of people—the white super-rich. T is also something relatively new, but he is a poison in a garden that was already laid waste by politicians unable and unwilling to halt the pressure by the super-rich to undermine any restraints on their power.

 

One book I’ve been reading to help me gain some clarity is Billionaire Democracy: The Hijacking of the American Political System by economist George Tyler. This is an important book to read. It talks not only about how democracy has been hijacked, but how to take it back. In 1980, according to Tyler, the richest 0.1% contributed less than 10% of all campaign contributions. By 2012, their share increased to 44%. In 2016, it increased to about 66% of contributions to Congressional candidates.

 

Along with this trend in political contributions is a trend many have noted in wealth controlled by the top 1%. In the 1920s, before the depression, the top 1% owned 44.2% of the wealth. During the depression, and even more, during the war, the taxes on the rich were raised to 94% for top earners, and the percentage of wealth owned by the rich by 1945 was down to 29.8%. By 1979, the percentage owned by the 1% was down to only 20%. Thanks to Reagan, the percentage of wealth owned by the super-rich went up. By 2013, the top 1% owned 36.7% of US wealth. The top 20% of the US population in terms of wealth owned 89%, leaving only 11% for the remaining 80% of people. In 2017, the top 1% owned 42.8%. It has been increasing by 6% annually since the mid-2000s. (See my chart on the last page.) And the GOP tax cut is only making income inequality worse.

 

America’s wealthiest 20 people own more wealth than the bottom half the population, own more than 152,000,000 people combined. Among the Forbes 444, only 2 are African-American.

 

Tyler analyzes how the super-rich used their wealth to buy a political party. They went about this from several directions. They first chose a party that had favored the super-rich since the Gilded Age and the Robber Barons. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, in the primary season for the 2016 presidential election, nearly half of all political contributions came from about 158 families. 158 families! 87% went to the GOP.

 

Second, Tyler explains how the party “culled” most of its more moderate members from their ranks or leadership positions. They culled those who would actually work with Democrats, or support Medicare, capital gains taxes, public schools, or work to limit soft money donations, etc. For example, former Senator Olympia Snowe was a moderate Republican from Maine. She was booed in the Republican convention in Bangor because of her history of cooperating with Democrats. Soon after that, she stopped her bid for reelection. (A similar thing occurred with U. S. Rep. Mark Sanford, who was a critic of Mr. T and lost his bid to run again for Congress after T tweeted his support to Sanford’s challenger.)

 

Third, the super-rich bought a movement, the Tea Party. When the Tea Party was just getting organized in 2009, wealthy donors like the tobacco industry and the Koch brothers helped finance their meetings, conventions and advertising, yet so many of their members had no idea this was happening.

 

Fourth, Tyler clarifies how the rich bought media outlets and continue to do so today. The Tea Party movement was created not only with the money of the wealthy but by their control of the media. Rupert Murdoch, for example, bought Fox news and turned it into the propaganda outlet of the rich and right-wing. The super-rich funded media that spread an anti-government, anti-tax, anti-any-social-program that actually was helpful to the lives of most Americans.

 

The rules obliging the broadcast media to provide factual reporting (called the Fairness Doctrine, spelled out in 1947) were undone in 1987 by Reagan. As Tyler put it, “since Ronald Reagan…broadcasters have abandoned objectivity in favor of an afactual, partisan din. Fables foisted as reality have become commonplace…”  (p. 193) The Trumpian attack on facts and truth has been developing for decades.

 

In Federalist 68, Alexander Hamilton warned of “cabal, intrigue, and corruption… chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the union…?” Hamilton greatly feared a misinformed citizenry. His fears were eerily actualized in the Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. In fact, as Tyler puts it, the GOP strategy was to undermine exactly what the framers meant to preserve. They “demonize[d] the fact-based information industry central to the framer’s vision of a democracy sustained by an informed electorate.”

 

Fifth, the super-rich went after the legal system, including the Supreme Court. They used the concept of the personhood of a corporation to advance their agenda and diminish governmental restrictions on their power. This concept was nowhere to be found in discussions by the Founding Fathers and was nowhere mentioned in the history of the court prior to the 1880s.

 

According to Tyler, in the 1880s Roscoe Conklin, a lawyer representing a railroad baron, introduced the idea that the 14thamendment was passed not only to protect the civil rights of African-American males but also protect corporations from government interference. Conklin argued for this idea despite the total lack of any evidence for it. There were no records of it being mentioned in any of the discussions that led to the passage of the 14thAmendment in 1867. In 1886, his fabricated doctrine helped win a case protecting the railroads from “bothersome” taxes levied by the county of Santa Clara on the railroads. It has been used since to protect the rich from the rest of us.

 

The founding fathers, explained Tyler, distrusted big corporations and thought contributing to a political campaign was a way to buy a politician. It was, thus, a criminal act. Vote buying undermined the integrity of voting. This criminality became legally protected by the Citizens United Supreme Court decision of 2010, which synthesized two evils. It not only reinforced the personhood of corporations. It released corporations and the super-rich from most restrictions on the buying of politicians. It said that corporations, like people, have the right of free speech. And making political contributions was a form of protected speech, not to be restricted.

 

The whole idea that a corporation should be considered a person is ludicrous. Corporations were never given the vote, don’t give birth, don’t shake hands or die, except metaphorically. The rich who own and manage corporations already have a vote and a voice, if they are citizens. Why give them what amounts to two or thousands of votes? The constitutional guarantee of free speech refers to guarding the content of speech, not its volume.

 

Apparently, most Americans know that the rich have too much influence on the government. According to the Public Religion Research Institute, in 2015, 79% of Americans (63% of Republicans) said our economic system unfairly favors the rich. A similar view is held about the government. And the support shown to Bernie Sanders in 2016 (and maybe even to T himself) seems to confirm this.

 

Taxing the rich is one traditional way to exercise a little control over how wealthy the wealthy can be. It is not socialism, but is how the U. S. financed a winning strategy in World War II. It is how, in the 1950s and 1960s, we experienced the greatest growth of the middle class in our history. From the 1940s to 1980s, the highest earners paid more than double what they do now in taxes. In fact, from the 1940s to 1960s, the highest tax bracket was around 90%. Reagan’s first tax cut lowered the top tax rate from 70% to 50%; in 1989, it was down to 28%. Since then, the rates have gone slightly up and down, down especially with the latest GOP tax cut to the super-rich. (See below.)

 

Meanwhile, today, most of us pay in real taxes about 25% of income, which includes property, sales and other taxes, not only income tax. This puts the US at the lowest tax levels of all nations except for Korea, Chile, and Mexico.

 

So, when we think about how to take back or create democracy, we have to keep in mind who really constitutes the base of the GOP and T. We have to find a way to lessen the influence and control of the super-rich over public policy and all our lives.

 

And we have to find out how Russia fits into the plans and manipulations of the super-rich.

 

 

Chart Showing How Increasing Taxes Lowers Income Inequality (Compiled from different sources.)

Year % of wealth controlled by the top 1% Income tax rates for the wealthiest of us
1929 44.2% 24%
1945 29.8% 94%
1979 20.5% 70%
1983 30.9% 50%
1989 35.7% 28%
1990s 37.2 – 38.1 28 – 39.6%
2017 42.8%
2018 Estimate: 45.3% (6% increase per year since 2008) 37%
2030 Est: 64%

A Scary Supreme Court: Oppose The Nomination

T announced Monday night that his choice for the Supreme Court is judge Brett Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh, according to a New York Times analysis, is possibly less conservative than Neil Gorsuch. As an assistant to Kenneth Starr in the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton, he wrote an argument giving a broad definition of impeachable offenses, so much so that he disturbed some conservatives. What he thinks today, or would think facing T, is beyond my knowledge. But he was then speaking about a Democratic President.

 

However, Kavanaugh is deeply conservative in his views, so Roe vs Wade is certainly threatened. The NAACP considers him a dangerous ideologue, a strong proponent of the rights of the wealthy and a deep threat to civil rights, women’s rights, voting rights, etc.

 

There are so many viewpoints on this issue. My own view is that all those who support Democratic institutions, civil, consumer, and women’s rights—hopefully, all Democratic members of Congress should do everything they can to delay, oppose, stop the nominee from being approved, certainly until the new Congress could be elected and seated.

 

Please call:

Heidi Heitkamp (D, N. Dakota) 202 224 2043

Joe Donnelly (D, Indiana)    202 224 4814

Joe Manchin (W. VA)            202 224 3954, 304 342 5855

Susan Collins (R, Maine)      202 224 2523

Lisa Murkowski (R, Aaska)   202 224 6665

 

I say this not only because Republicans for a year stopped any vote to confirm Obama’s choice for the Supreme Court, saying (dubiously) they should not vote on a new nominee in the year of a Presidential election. 2018 is not a Presidential election year, but it is one of the most significant elections I can recall. It is also because the President himself is under several investigations, for possible collusion, corruption, interference in the Mueller probe, etc. and these investigations might wind up before the court. The President’s nominees should not be given the chance to defend the man who just chose them for the position. (Or who possibly asked for their allegiance?)

 

According to an article from the New York Times, this is especially relevant to Judge Kavanaugh. “In two law journal articles — one published in 1998 and another in 2009 — Judge Kavanaugh raised questions about whether a sitting president could be indicted, and suggested that presidents should be shielded from civil suits and criminal investigations. Both explore issues that are deeply relevant to Mr. Trump and the ongoing investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.” We could have a court that instead of enforcing a separation of powers, concentrates power in one person’s hands, and protects T from anyone who tries to hold him accountable.