The Struggle for the Soul of America: Democrats’ Reconciliation Bill Must Include Voting Rights

Time is running out for the Democrats to pass President Biden’s chief legislative program, Build Back Better (BBB). While they have been working on it for months, progressive and moderate Dems can’t seem to reach a compromise that both sides can live with. Yet, they all know that if they fail to pass legislation that provides some significant benefits to the American people, their prospects in next year’s election are dismal.

Here’s a possible solution. Instead of trying to pass the whole enchilada all at once, divide the $3.5 trillion social services and tax reform bill in two:

  1. One bill would contain all the provisions from the original proposal that both sides can agree to support.
  2. The second bill would include those areas on which they cannot currently find common ground and would not be considered until after the 2022 election.

The one thing that must be included in the first bill is the 2021 Freedom to Vote Act.[1] Standing alone, voting rights bills have been blocked by Republican filibusters three times this year, most recently this week.[2] However, by inserting it in their first BBB reconciliation package, Democrats would prevent a Republicans filibuster since the reconciliation process only requires a simple majority.

For the Act to qualify for reconciliation, Democrats must also include a specific funding amount, e.g., $2 billion, to assist the states in their implementation of the voting rights provisions.[3] Adding this relatively small amount to the reconciliation bill would be much easier than changing the filibuster rule since all 50 Senate Democrats support the Freedom to Vote Act,[4] which is not the case with the latter approach.

Securing Americans’ voting rights would be a major achievement for Biden and his party. It would also give the Democrats a much greater chance of maintaining control of Congress in the 2022 election. They will have demonstrated that their party can deliver for the American people having passed the first half of Biden’s BBB program, voting rights and the $1.2 trillion, bipartisan infrastructure bill.

Plus, the Democrats would have the promise of the second half of Biden’s BBB agenda – including combating climate change and lowering drug prices — which they would introduce in 2023 after next year’s election. This should energize the Democratic base to get out the vote and increase the Dems majority in Congress. With larger majorities in each house, the Democrats would then most likely be able to pass the disputed portions of the BBB program.

Clearly, progressives would be taking a chance with this compromise strategy. But the reality is that the BBB plan that finally does pass this year will be significantly reduced in size anyway and will not include some of the progressive provisions that were in the original proposal. Given the strong opposition of Sens. Manchin and Sinema to these provisions, there is really nothing they can do about that. Splitting the bill into two and including the Right to Vote Act in this year’s portion is the best that the Democrats can hope for.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/breaking-down-freedom-vote-act

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/20/us/senate-voting-rights-filibuster.html

[3] https://budget.house.gov/publications/fact-sheet/budget-reconciliation-basics

[4] https://www.democracydocket.com/alerts/senate-republicans-block-freedom-to-vote-act-from-floor-debate/

The Struggle for the Soul of America: The Urgency of Boycotting Corporate America

In last week’s blog, “It’s Time We Take on Corporate America,”[1] I called for a massive boycott against the corporations and business associations lobbying to derail President Biden’s tax reform and spending package, Build Back Better (BBB).

The $3.5 trillion program these corporations oppose includes many provisions[2] that are very popular[3] with Americans:

  • lowering the cost of childcare and providing two years of universal pre-K for 3 and 4-year-olds
  • expanding Medicare to include coverage of dental, hearing and vision services
  • extending the child tax credit through 2025
  • cutting prescription drug prices
  • providing 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave
  • combating climate change
  • raising taxes on corporations and the very wealth

My blog stressed that corporate America is at the root of our country’s problem, Big Money’s control of government policy. A few years ago, I even wrote a book, Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America,[4] focused on this very issue.

Last week I pointed out how moderate Democrats like Sen. Manchin and Sinema are unwilling to support the $3.5 trillion BBB plan, in large part, because their very big contributors, for example, the pharmaceutical industry and the national realtors’ association, oppose it. While progressives and the Democratic leadership have strongly urged these moderates to unite with the rest of the party and pass the Biden agenda, they have stood firm in their opposition.

Unfortunately, the only ones who have the muscle to convince these Democrats to change their position on the BBB program are their major corporate donors. (A recent report, Behind the Curtain,[5] exposed the connections between Congress and their corporate sponsors.) And the only ones who have the power to stop the corporate lobbying against the BBB agenda and voting rights are American consumers. By refusing to patronize these companies, we can conduct a nationwide boycott forcing them to change the lobbying practices that protect their bottom line while jeopardizing our democracy.

But there’s yet another critical reason to boycott these companies. Following the January 6th insurrection, many corporate PACs suspended their political donations and promised to re-evaluate them in light of the attack on the Capitol and our democracy. However, just six months later these PACs (including American Airlines, GM and UPS) were back providing funding to members of Congress who opposed certification of the electoral college results and hindered the peaceful transition of power.[6] In effect, some of America’s largest corporations have given a “pass” to supporters of the insurrection as long as they continue to provide legislation beneficial to their companies.

Ultimately, an effective boycott must make it in a corporation’s interest to support what is in the public interest. That is, American consumers must make it perfectly clear that we will only use our purchasing power to patronize companies that promote our country’s core values and the common good.

For too long corporate America has been calling the shots in Congress as well as in state legislatures. If we want to hold onto our democracy and build a better future for all Americans, we must take control of government policies away from corporate America.

While there are valid objections to a nationwide boycott, here is how to address them:

  1. I’m in, but we’ll never get enough people to participate for it to be effective.

Well, if we don’t try, we’ll never know. The boycott will certainly need some well-known national sponsors like the AFL-CIO and other unions, Black Lives Matter, Common Cause, the Democracy Initiative, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Indivisible, the League of Women Voters, MoveOn and many others. With the right message and numerous large organizations behind it, millions of people could join a national boycott.

2. I really depend on Amazon, FedEx, etc. I need them and can’t give them up.

Practically all goods and services that these corporations provide can be obtained from other sources. While it may take some effort on our part, the stakes are too high to fail to act. The future of our democracy is at risk. If we want to save our country from authoritarian rule, we must be willing to sacrifice.

3. What about the workers who will lose their jobs when their companies are boycotted and can’t keep employing them?

As the boycott builds, a fund to supplement unemployment benefits for those laid off workers must be created by the participating organizations and individuals. They cannot become casualties of a national boycott.

I urge you to spread the idea of a national boycott to your friends and colleagues. If you are a member or contributor to a national organization, please send this blog to them and implore them to get involved. Together we can take back our government and save our democracy.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog/

[2] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/budget-reconciliation-bill-build-back-better-act/

[3] https://www.speaker.gov/newsroom/92121

[4] See https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/

[5] https://peoplesaction.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Behind-the-Curtain-final.pdf

[6] https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/07/15/american-airlines-overturn-election-january-6/

The Struggle for the Soul of America: It’s Time We Take On Corporate America

The Democrats are in a bind. If Congressional Democrats don’t come together and pass President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, they will almost assuredly lose both houses of Congress in the 2022 mid-term elections. Every Democratic member of Congress must understand that not only is their congressional majority at stake, but also the success of the Biden presidency, his ability to win re-election in 2024 and democracy itself. It’s that simple.

And yet, the Democrats are finding it difficult to reach an agreement. A major stumbling block is the $3.5 trillion cost of Biden’s social and economic reconciliation bill. Progressives argue they have already reduced the legislation from its original $6 trillion and, after all, the expenditure is over a ten-year period. Nevertheless, Sens. Manchin and Sinema plus some moderate House Democrats strongly object that the price is still way too high. But are they truly concerned with the price tag, or are they just doing the bidding of their corporate sponsors?

One of Sinema’s main objections to the legislation is its Medicare prescription drug proposal to lower the cost of medications.[1] It’s no surprise that Sinema has taken this position. She has received approximately $750,000 in campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical industry. During her 2018 Senate campaign she repeatedly promised to work on lowering the cost of prescription drugs. But after Sinema received the industry’s generous donations, she reversed her position and opposed the plan to allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices.[2]

Manchin and several House Democrats who oppose the bill’s Medicare drug proposal also garnered very large contributions from the pharmaceutical industry.[3] The fact that 88% of all Americans support the Democratic plan to allow the federal government to negotiate lower prices on medications tells you whose interests these moderate congresspeople really represent.[4]

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. According to a new report, Behind the Curtain: The Corporate Plot to Upend Democracy, 20 corporations or industry groups have spent more than $201 million in lobbying so far this year that is mostly aimed at derailing progressive provisions in Bidens’ popular tax reform and spending package. They include Amazon, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Comcast, Facebook, FedEx and Pfizer, companies many of us patronize.[5]

The report issued by People’s Action, a nationwide network of groups organizing for social justice, and Dēmos, a progressive think tank, exposes Big Money’s crippling grip on our government:

“Rich corporations are fighting tooth and nail to prevent the American people from getting what they want: a government that works for everyone, not just a wealthy few. Their massive use of corporate power to frustrate the will of the people on an issue-by-issue basis is part of a larger anti-democracy effort backed by corporate America.

“As corporations seek to undermine the Biden plan’s much-needed tax provisions, historic investments in drug pricing reform, healthcare, housing, climate, and immigration reform, they are also attacking our freedom to vote. Many of the same companies combating elements of the Build Back Better proposal are also bankrolling voter suppression legislation.”[6]

We, the people need to fight back by attacking the root of the problem, corporate America. A massive boycott of a couple of these corporations just might get them off our representatives’ backs. These congresspeople must represent us, their constituents, not their corporate donors. Can we organize a large enough boycott of Amazon or FedEx to force them to stop lobbying against the public good?

Let’s give it our best shot. Spread the word. Send this blog to your email lists and your friends on social media. Encourage everyone you know to stop buying from Amazon or using FedEx. Working together, we can make a difference. It’s time to stand up for what’s right and in our best interests before it’s too late!

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.politico.com/news/2021/09/19/kyrsten-sinema-biden-drug-pricing-prescription-plan-512907

[2] Ibid.

[3] https://www.thenation.com/article/politics/pharma-democrats-bribery/; https://www.opensecrets.org/members-of-congress/joe-manchin/summary?cid=N00032838&cycle=2022&type=C

[4] Ibid.

[5] https://peoplesaction.org/behind-the-curtain/

[6] https://peoplesaction.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Behind-the-Curtain-final.pdf

The Struggle for the Soul of America: A Call to Action

In the late 1960’s, I protested against the Vietnam War. Along with millions of other Americans, I marched in New York and Washington against the War, and lobbied my congressman and senators to terminate it. Together we made a difference and helped end the war in southeast Asia.

Since then, I’ve participated in many protests including against nuclear weapons and the Iraq War, as well as for Black Lives Matter and women’s rights. While these were all critically important causes, they all lacked one vital factor that made the anti-Vietnam War protest so effective: every American had a personal stake in ending the war.

While these other critical issues personally impacted large segments of the population, none of them had the potential to affect everyone like Vietnam did. We had a draft back then. So, anyone of draft age, a son, a father, a friend or neighbor, could have been called up and sent to fight a war that more and more Americans came to oppose as it dragged on for years.

Also, for the first time, the war was in our faces. The lead story on the nightly news was the War. We saw the body bags as they arrived home. We saw distraught parents, sobbing widows, bewildered children. The war and its toll were inescapable.

Today we are in a different kind of war. It’s not halfway around the world, or the lead story on television every night. But, like Vietnam, it does have the potential to dramatically affect all of our lives. Unfortunately, while that is true, most Americans have not been able to grasp that reality in the way a deadly war did.

Today the War Against Democracy is raging in our country. And while, if we lose, it will drastically affect our lives, most of us are not engaged in the fight.

We read about the anti-democratic laws restricting our voting rights being enacted across the country and shake our heads. We are furious with the continuing Republican obstruction in Congress, where they won’t even investigate the attack on our government. We listen in disbelief as General Flynn calls for a coup to re-install Trump in the White House. Yet, for the most part, we go on with our lives doing little, if anything, to stop this madness.

I think to myself, if this were France, millions of people would be out in the streets. There would be a nationwide strike halting business as usual until something was done to ensure the government survives. Here, we write a check, call our congressperson, debate the issues, and go on about our daily lives. We allow Trump and his right-wing cohorts to get all the attention even though less than a third of the country supports him.[1] We are the silent majority.

Why are we silent? First, we feel helpless and/or hopeless. We are so overwhelmed with bad news to the point where we cannot imagine what to do. Second, many of us are too comfortable. We don’t immediately feel the consequences of what is happening. We are too removed from the struggle and the oppression to be compelled to act until it is too late. And third, we don’t believe it can happen in the United States. Autocratic coups are what happens in third world countries, but not here.

The January 6th insurrection demonstrated it can happen here. And it is personal. We can lose our right to choose who governs our country. Yes, it’s true that in many ways our right to choose has already been narrowed down unfairly or practically eliminated by power brokers. Still, if we fail to prevent the destruction of what’s left of our democracy, our ability to work together to rebuild it will be severely crippled, if not destroyed entirely.

Make no mistake. Our country is in crisis. We are on the brink of disaster. It’s time to organize. Our power is in our numbers. Take to the streets. Call for a nationwide strike and/or boycott. If you want to save our democracy, the time to act is now.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics (now RepresentUs New Mexico), a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/meet-the-press/after-100-days-out-office-trump-s-support-softens-nbc-n1265457

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Are We in a Moment of Transcendence?

Last Tuesday, I celebrated my 76th birthday at Faywood Hot Springs south of Silver City, New Mexico. That morning my partner and I stepped outside our cozy cabin and a royal blue peacock appeared less than 20 feet away. We both felt great joy seeing this majestic creature with its amazing train of gorgeous feathers that had to be over six feet long.

The peacock is a symbol of transcendence and freedom. Encountering a peacock is said to be an omen of going beyond one’s personal boundaries and being “ready to shine out.” Feeling that my life is in a time of major transition, I sensed the appearance of this peacock — on my birthday, no less — was a sign for me to get out of my comfort zone and shift into a brighter, freer state of being. In the coming weeks and months, I believe how I might do this will become clearer.

Then, on Thursday evening, I watched President Biden address a joint session of Congress on national TV. As I listened to Biden, he appeared to have received a transcendent signal similar to the one I had gotten from the peacock. He was moving beyond his previous moderate political boundaries and imploring the American people to support bold, progressive proposals on everything from the economy and infrastructure to education and climate change:

“America is moving. Moving forward. And we can’t stop now. We’re in a great inflection point in history. We have to do more than just build back. We have to build back better.”[1]

In essence, Biden was saying it’s time for the nation to abandon prior theories like “trickle down” economics that had never really worked anyway. Rather, he asserted that the country needed to turn the corner to a more inclusive, optimistic future built from the bottom up.

As a nation, we are finally emerging from the shadows of a debilitating pandemic, a devastating recession, and a draconian administration. While we have not eradicated COVID, the government has made great strides in controlling it with over 230 million vaccinations since Biden took office.[2] In addition, the economy is quickly recovering with 6.4 percent growth in the first quarter of the year fueled by government aid and declining viral cases.[3] Yet, we still have a long way to go to realize the vision of “one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.”

Unfortunately, there are those among us who do not want justice for all or the right to vote protected for everyone. As Biden reminded us in his address:

And if we are to truly restore the soul of America – we need to protect the sacred right to vote. More people voted in the last presidential election than any time in American history – in the middle of one of the worst pandemics ever.
 
That should be celebrated. Instead, it’s being attacked. Congress should pass H.R. 1 and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and send them to my desk right away.[4]

This is America’s moment of truth. Yes, we survived the January 6th attack on our democracy. But if we are to truly transcend racial bigotry and economic injustice, and forge a new era based on fairness and compassion, we must overcome the hate, ignorance and greed that runs rampant in our country. Biden’s proposals are showing us the way. The question is: Do the Senate and the American people have the wisdom and courage to follow his lead?

Bruce Berlin, JD


[1] https://www.nytimes.com/live/2021/04/28/us/biden-speech-congress

[2] https://www.reuters.com/world/us/bidens-first-100-days-covid-19-jobs-foreign-policy-immigration-guns-dogs-2021-04-27/

[3] https://www.politico.com/news/2021/04/29/economy-accelerates-last-quarter-484993

[4] https://mail.google.com/mail/u/1/#inbox/FMfcgxwLtkVTzhlmHssBtdsGmFqLvdWQ

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Corporate America Joins the Battle for Voters’ Rights

It’s a cloudy, overcast day here at my home in the country outside of Las Vegas, New Mexico. While many of us have gotten vaccinated and are moving on with our lives, another momentous storm is sweeping across the country.

Yes, we do seem to be slowly beating back the COVID pandemic. In fact, Dr. Fauci recently indicated that “we would approach some degree of normality as we get towards the end of the summer and into the fall, and a considerable degree of normality” by next winter.[1]  I hope he’s right.

Yet, what’s happening today in America’s corporate boardrooms is anything but normal. As I noted in my blog of April 9 (https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog/), Republican lawmakers throughout the nation are doing whatever they can to gain and maintain political power. In 47 states they are making it more difficult for people of color to vote, people much more likely to support Democrats.[2]

Now, a new voice has suddenly entered the fight to protect our voting rights. Hundreds of U.S. corporations and executives, including Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, G.M., Starbucks and Warren Buffett, recently signed on to a two-page ad in the New York Times and the Washington Post calling for the defense of Americans’ voting rights.[3]

And, in the irony of all ironies, the Republicans are up in arms. Here’s how Republican leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, who knows how to talk out of both sides of his mouth better than any other politician, responded to the corporate support for voters’ rights:

“My warning to corporate America is to stay out of politics,” before unbelievably adding, “I’m not talking about political contributions.”[4]

This is the same Sen. McConnell who praised the 2010 Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling that money is speech protected by the First Amendment and corporations are just like people who, therefore, have the right to finance election spending:

“For too long, some in this country have been deprived of full participation in the political process.” He hailed the decision as “an important step” in “restoring the First Amendment rights of these groups.”[5]

Of course, both parties take loads of campaign contributions from corporate interests.[6] However, the Democrats are not the hypocrites that McConnell and his Republican colleagues are. They don’t accept huge donations and then tell their corporate donors to stay out of politics.

But here’s where you come in. Tell these corporate contributors to put their money where their mouths are and back up their speech with effective action.

Do the following to help strengthen corporate efforts in the fight for voters’ rights:

  1.  Check out the NYT ad at https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/14/business/dealbook/ceos-voting-rights.html
  2. Write down the names of companies that you do business with or from whom you buy their products.
  3. Write/email those companies. Tell them you are a customer of theirs and you support their stance on voting rights. Write to as many companies as you can.
  4. Urge them not to donate to any candidate or elected official (state or federal) who supports state or federal efforts to restrict voting rights in any way, or who was involved in the January 6 insurrection.
  5. Insist that they only donate to candidates and elected officials (state or federal) who support HR1/S1 (the For the People Act) and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.
  6. Contact your friends and family and ask them to take the above steps as well.

Together, with Corporate America on the side of protecting everyone’s right to vote and our demanding they withhold funding of Republicans working to restrict voting rights, we can be a powerful force in the struggle to save our democracy.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.                                                                                        

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/fauci-breakthrough-infection-covid-vaccine-b1830303.html

[2] https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/voting-laws-roundup-march-2021?ms=gad_voting%20laws_513381296572_8626214133_121430490955&gclid=Cj0KCQjw6-SDBhCMARIsAGbI7Ugdzt2p9ECuO9L4gAq34U9LPZvOTc2tbxNqs02ZMCZQmaEGpr038xAaAmYbEALw_wcB; https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/how-restrictive-voting-requirements-target-minorities

[3] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-04-14/corporate-america-unites-for-voting-rights-without-naming-plan; https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/14/business/ceos-corporate-america-voting-rights.html

[4] https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/04/07/mitch-mcconnell-georgia-citizens-united/

[5] Ibid.

[6] https://www.opensecrets.org/elections-overview/biggest-donors

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Will Loser Trump Still Get His Way?

Though Donald Trump lost his bid for re-election, he will not go quietly into the night. While some of his Republican colleagues are finally advising him to quit claiming phony massive voter fraud and concede the election, they fail to get the true nature of Trump’s devious game.

It doesn’t faze Trump that over 30 of his lawsuits alleging voter fraud or other election misconduct have been dismissed,[1] some even by Trump-appointed judges. As I noted in a prior blog, Trump craves the limelight. (“All Trump, All the Time,” 11/14/20, https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/2020/11/14/the-struggle-for-the-soul-of-america-all-trump-all-the-time/)

In this case, the spotlight is critical. His ongoing public battles keep Trump’s base engaged. His legal setbacks make him look like a wounded underdog and rile up his devoted legions even more. In fact, a growing number of them are readying for armed combat.[2] Whether or not Trump incites his loyal mob to violence, the threat of civil unrest could provide him with some bargaining power with prosecutors after he leaves office.[3] 

Plus, we know Trump’s clamoring about a stolen election will not let up once Biden takes the oath of office. He’ll do anything he can to make Biden’s presidency less than effective. His former rival, Hillary Clinton, predicts Trump “will immediately announce he is running again in 2024 when he leaves the White House” and have a “media outlet where he’s going to be peddling his stuff every day.”[4]

At the same time, Trump’s continued legal battles have afforded him a rich source of revenue. Since the election he has raised over $200 million to support his cause.[5] In his ever-cunning fashion, Trump has been funneling the money into a “Legal Defense Fund” which provides that the first 75 percent of every contribution would go to a new political action committee, Save America, that could fund “his political activities going forward, including staff and travel,” even personal expenses.[6] Grifter Trump is at it once again.

So, the question remains: Will there ever be a day of reckoning for Donald J. Trump? Biden has said that as president he will not interfere with the Justice Department’s determination whether to prosecute Trump. And Trump may even try to pardon himself before leaving office. Whether a president can pardon himself is an open question which the Supreme Court, with three Trump appointees, may ultimately have to decide.

If Trump goes free, he could run again in 2024. Even if he doesn’t avoid prosecution, another popular demagogue may one day challenge American democracy. Our country needs strong guardrails to protect against that possibility. We, the people must demand that the Biden Administration build them.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/25/us/elections/trump-campaign-lawsuits.html

[2] https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8928515/Trump-supporters-wield-ARs-wave-MAGA-flags-protests-Presidents-claim-election-stolen.html

[3] https://www.ajc.com/news/trump-faces-greater-risk-of-prosecution-after-leaving-office/AM6QDFHSPBERPCQEOYQD23FSFQ/

[4] https://www.yahoo.com/news/hillary-clinton-says-trump-not-212416731.html

[5]https://www.cnn.com/2020/12/03/politics/trump-fundraising-election-day/index.html;

[6] Ibid.

The Struggle for the Soul of America: A Time for Serious Soul-Searching

While the country dodged an authoritarian bullet by electing Joe Biden as our next president, we are far from out of the woods. This is truly a time for some deep national reflection.

Our country is deadlocked. Almost half of America believes the election was stolen and Donald Trump should be president for another four years. Despite the administration’s massive corruption and self-dealing,[1] over 73 million Americans voted to give Trump a second term. While the president has lost over 30 lawsuits challenging the 2020 election,[2] a great many Americans continue to stand by him.

At the same time, more than 260,000 Americans have died from COVID 19 while Trump has refused to employ the immense powers of the federal government to curb the spread of the virus. As he continues to ignore this public health crisis, millions of Trump’s supporters still believe the virus is a hoax.

Meanwhile, as deaths from the virus continue to mount, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is attempting to undermine Biden’s future efforts to control the pandemic. Mnuchin is placing $455 billion in unspent coronavirus relief funds into an account that requires further congressional authorization to access, even though Congress had previously allocated the funds for emergency relief programs back in March.[3]

Plus, the Senate and House won’t put their differences aside for the good of the country. Once again, they have failed to pass a bill to help the millions who are suffering from the virus or have lost their incomes. Cities and states are also overwhelmed and desperately need federal assistance to keep their public health and other essential services operating.

Why is it so difficult for the country to come together to defeat this terrible common enemy, COVID 19? What don’t we understand? Why are we failing?

Political Science Professor Katherine Cramer at the University of Wisconsin points to a key factor underlying this dilemma. She explains:

There is a deep well of people in this country…who are sure the system is not working for them….(My book explores) the feelings of resentment many rural people in Wisconsin felt toward the urban elite. When Donald Trump won in 2016, partly by tapping into this resentment…I became aware just how surprised many in the cultural elite were about the challenges facing rural communities and the fact that many people living in these places feel they are not getting their fair share of attention, resources or respect. The shock at the closeness of the 2020 race suggests we are still unaware of the depth of this resentment.…What is the infrastructure that allows the hardships of so many to remain invisible?[4]

Mark Bauerlein, professor emeritus of English at Emory University, put it this way:

Ordinary Americans looked at the elite zones of academia, Hollywood, Silicon Valley, Wall Street and Washington itself, and saw a bunch of self-serving, not very competent individuals sitting pretty, who had enriched themselves and let the rest of America slide,…putting the rank and file down for years.

(Trump) pinpointed them as the problem—the reason factories and small stores had closed, unemployment was bad, and PC culture had cast them as human debris. And millions cheered. …The outburst was a long time coming. Trump gave it an outlet, and the scorn for men and women at the top of our country is now widespread and frank. It’s not going to pass any time soon.[5]

John Austin, director of the Michigan Economic Center, offered this solution to the problem:

(U)nless we address the root economic causes of many American voters’ anger and social alienation, we will remain a divided nation, with many remaining susceptible to the message of demagogues like Donald Trump.[6]

But the questions remain: Will Biden and his new Administration really get it? Will the Republicans continue to block progress in addressing these root economic causes?

Are they up to the challenge? To succeed, Sen. Bernie Sanders believes that “Democrats in Congress and the incoming Biden administration ‘must have the courage to take on the powerful special interests who have been at war with the working class of this country for decades.’”[7]

Will they? It is up to us to make sure they do, or we will lose what’s left of our representative democracy to the next populist authoritarian who comes along.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.republicreport.org/2020/ten-reasons-trump-is-the-most-corrupt-president-in-u-s-history/

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/25/us/elections/trump-campaign-lawsuits.html

[3] https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/11/25/flat-out-sabotage-already-underway-mnuchin-tries-put-455-billion-covid-funds-out

[4] https://www.yahoo.com/news/trump-showed-us-america-005554050.html

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/11/25/prevent-another-right-wing-authoritarian-even-worse-trump-sanders-says-democrats

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Everything Must Be on the Table

If Joe Biden and the Democrats win in November, they must resolve to have everything on the table in order to fix our broken political system. Both our electoral and policymaking processes are fundamentally flawed when the desires of the majority of American voters are continually crushed by the minority.

The United States is a democratic republic. But there is nothing democratic about our nation when rampant corrupting influences control our political system: voter suppression, gerrymandering, corporate lobbying, the Electoral College and huge campaign donations, much of which is dark money the sources of which are intentionally hidden from public scrutiny.

Earlier this week, Biden indicated that he was not a fan of adding seats to the Supreme Court, i.e. court packing. At the same time, he noted that the Republicans rush to put the very conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett on the Court in the midst of a presidential election is a form of court packing.[1] While the Democrats don’t have the votes to block her nomination, they can, and they must, rebalance the Court as well as the entire federal judiciary, if Biden wins and they take back the Senate.

The truth is that Mitch McConnell and the Republicans have been packing the federal judiciary with conservative judges ever since 2014 when they gained the majority in the Senate. During the last two years of the Obama Administration, McConnell blocked Obama’s 105 judicial appointments including Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. As a result:

“…Trump and McConnell have gotten over 200 federal judges and two Supreme Court Justices through the Senate, meaning over a quarter of all federal judges have been packed into our court system by Trump and virtually 100% of them have been straight and white, the overwhelming majority men.”[2]

But, it’s not just the federal courts that the Republicans have hijacked. Last February Majority Leader McConnell admitted he had 395 bills in his office passed by the House of Representatives that the Senate would not consider. And, 80% of the bills McConnell is now blocking from Senate consideration have bipartisan support.[3]

If Biden wins the election, which is looking likely, and the Democrats take control of the Senate, McConnell’s stranglehold on the legislative process and the federal judiciary will still continue as long as the filibuster remains in place. Once again, the will of the majority will be denied. Just like it has been in two of the last five presidential elections when the president-elect did not win the popular vote.[4]

An overwhelming Democratic victory next month is our only chance of restoring some measure of fairness, racial justice, compassion and common decency in our country. Despite Trump’s extensive efforts to steal the election, I believe that Biden’s chances of winning the election and the Democrats’ taking control of the Senate are good.

The best path to derailing Trump’s scams and ensuring a victory for democracy is a blue tidal wave on Election Day that will make it virtually impossible for Trump to muster the forces needed to overturn the results. The Democrats’ momentum is building. It’s up to us to make sure that it crests on Election Day. So, make a plan and go vote!

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.

[1] https://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/10/12/its-time-unpack-court.

[2] Ibid.

[3] https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2020/08/27/rnc-mitch-mcconnell-has-been-key-confidante-donald-trump/5650153002/.

[4] https://time.com/5579161/presidents-elected-electoral-college/.

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Can Biden Turn On Turned Off Voters?

Here’s my main concern regarding Tuesday’s debate. It was so ugly that many undecided and sometimes voters will conclude the election is not worth their time, and just not vote. This plays right into Trump’s campaign strategy. Low voter turnout will help Trump declare victory on election night before all the Democratic mail-in votes are counted.           

If I were advising Biden, here’s what I would have him say to the those turned off voters:

“My fellow Americans. First, I want to say I’m sorry that you were exposed to such a disgraceful presidential debate on Tuesday evening. I tried to maintain a decent, respectful level of discourse with the president, but he continually interrupted me and the moderator, Chris Wallace. The president dragged the discussion down to a new low for presidential debates. Frankly, I was embarrassed for him.

“Since it was nearly impossible for me to get my message across while the president repeatedly talked over me, spewing out lies and distortions, let me now clearly state what I was trying to tell you during the debate:

“I care about the lives of all Americans. In order to get our country back on track, we must have a national plan to beat COVID 19, which has already killed over 200,000 of us. My plan will provide the resources, financial and material, which every state, red and blue alike, needs to safely re-open schools and businesses. We cannot fully restore our economy and get everyone back to work until we have this pandemic under control.

Next, we need to rebuild our economy. That means a living wage for all Americans in jobs that are safe for our workers and our environment. My economic plan will create millions of good-paying jobs in renewable energy, clean manufacturing and affordable healthcare.

“We also need to ensure that all Americans have affordable healthcare. To accomplish that, we must expand the Affordable Care Act to include a public option to bring healthcare costs down and help those Americans who can’t afford private health insurance. We must continue to protect all Americans with pre-existing conditions as well.

“And, we must protect our environment. Global warming is real. If we don’t take strong measures to fight it, the health of the entire planet, and all life, will be endangered. So, I will bring our nation back into the Paris Accords and take further steps to combat climate change.

Next, we need to restructure our political system, so that all Americans are fairly represented. Our current system gives two senators representing a state with 600,000 people the same voting power as the two senators from a state with 20 or 40 million people. The will of the majority is regularly suppressed by Republican senators that represent 15 million people less than their Democratic colleagues.[1]

“A similar situation exists in the Supreme Court where a majority of the justices have been appointed by presidents who were elected by a minority of the electorate. My administration will propose a plan where the majority will not continually be overruled by the minority, whether the issue is healthcare, climate change, energy policy, immigration, income inequality, racial justice or whatever.

“In addition, we need to eliminate the undue influence of Big Money in our political system so that all Americans have equal access to their representatives. That means closing the revolving door between Congress and corporate lobbyists as well as regulating campaign contributions and eliminating super PACs and dark money.

“Finally, we need a voters’ bill of rights guaranteeing all Americans the right to vote and ensuring the integrity of our election system. Your vote should not be under attack from foreign intruders, white supremacists or your own elected representatives.

“This election is critical to safeguarding our democracy. I respectfully ask for your support and urge you to vote to elect a Democratic Senate.

Thank you all, and may God bless America.”

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.

[1] https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2020/01/gop-senators-representing-a-minority-of-americans-are-preventing-a-fair-impeachment-trial/.