The Struggle for the Soul of America: Welcome to the Apocalypse

I phoned my daughter, Gioia, in Berkeley the other day. She answered my call, “Welcome to the Apocalypse, dad.” While I hadn’t looked at the global situation quite like that before, I had to agree with her. The world as we know it is disintegrating before our very eyes.

This time feels kind of like a calamity of biblical proportions. Something comparable to the Great Flood, except, unlike Noah, we failed to build an ark on which to ride out the storm. Or, maybe what we are experiencing is more akin to the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah, two ancient cities destroyed by divine retribution for their shameless sins and excessive indulgences. Of course, now like then, many, many innocent people are suffering and dying in the wake of the immoral, depraved behavior of others, from corporate avarice to the extreme political power of the very wealthy to presidential self-dealing.

At the same time, some light is beginning to shine through the darkness. China recently closed all 14 temporary hospitals that opened in Wuhan to treat COVID-19 patients during the worst of the outbreak. Moreover, the U.S.  has begun voluntary testing of a vaccine which protects against the coronavirus. (See https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/10-positive-updates-on-the-covid-19-outbreaks-from-around-the-world/?fbclid=IwAR22A_83gkAB8eLWPy9W3t8Vurj-tbHFUELNzWFH_YzYD-ptcqoNj-7XPzM.)

While this human, economic and political firestorm has been in the making for decades, it certainly has become full blown under the “extremely stable genius” of President Donald Trump. Afterall, he falsely bragged that he saw the pandemic coming “long before it was called a pandemic.” (See https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/05/president-trump-im-an-extremely-stable-genius.html; https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/17/us/politics/trump-coronavirus.html)

Trump is our modern-day Nero, who played the fiddle while Rome burned. Only Trump played golf while our country and the entire world was in free fall.

We should ask Mr. Trump:

  1. If you actually did see the coronavirus pandemic coming, why did you eliminate the National Security Council’s pandemic response team that could have mitigated the suffering of thousands, possibly millions, of Americans?
  2. Why did you call the media and Democratic sense of urgency, if not the coronavirus itself, a “hoax”? and,
  3. Why did you claim the coronavirus would be gone by April?

These are just a few of Trump’s many blunders and lies that have made this crisis worse and our country’s response hugely inadequate up to this point. Over 10,000 Americans now have the virus and close to 200 have already died.

Of course, the honest answers to these and similar questions all have to do with Trump’s central concern, his political future, rather than the wellbeing of the American people. Maybe, just maybe, this catastrophe will wake up enough of our fellow Americans to how incompetent and unfit Trump is to be president that they will overwhelmingly reject his re-election bid next November. But enough about our Pinocchio, con-man-in-chief president. What can we do individually to mitigate this colossal crisis? Here are just a few suggestions:

First, we need to help curtail the spread of the coronavirus. My partner and I have self-quarantined. We all need to stay home.

Second, washing our hands with soap and water is still the best way to prevent transmission of the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Third, use disinfectants to keep your hands and surfaces free of the coronavirus. (See https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/05/health/epa-disinfectants-coronavirus-trnd/?hpt=ob_blogfooterold)

And, finally, don’t panic. Yes, these are extremely hard times. We are under great pressure and it’s going to get worse before it gets better. However, in order to be most helpful to ourselves and others, we must keep our wits about us. Remember, it’s darkest just before the dawn. A new day will come. We must continue to work together to ensure that that day will bring a more equitable, democratic society with affordable healthcare for all, a mandatory living wage, and a sustainable environment based on renewable energy. Let us look at this terrible episode in our history as a period of deep cleansing required to usher in a new era of fairness, community, respect for our planet and love for all beings.

Bruce Berlin

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.

The Struggle for the Soul of America: The Democratic Party Must Revive Its Progressive Values

From FDR’s New Deal to Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, the Democratic Party took pride in being the party of the people. During this period, Democrats championed the rights of union members, women, black and brown minorities, the poor, whoever was getting shortchanged in American society. But when Bill Clinton won back the White House for the Democrats in 1992, the party began losing its way.

Clinton was the chair of the DLC, the Democratic Leadership Council, that steered the party away from its progressive traditions and toward a centrist, business-friendly, Republican approach to government. In 1993, he “helped gut America’s manufacturing base by promoting and passing the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA,…” NAFTA failed to protect the interests of working Americans and “signaled that the Democratic Party—the “progressive” side of the U.S. two-party system—had accepted the reactionary economic ideology of Ronald Reagan…” (See https://www.alternet.org/2015/06/15-ways-bill-clintons-white-house-failed-america-and-world/)

In 1996, Clinton worked with Speaker Newt Gingrich and the Republicans to enact the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act which gave states control of welfare programs. According to the Atlantic, “‘Welfare reform’ didn’t fix welfare so much as destroy it,…” Twenty-plus years after the passage of welfare reform, the number of poor American children has exploded and black welfare recipients are subject to the system’s most stringent rules. (See https://www.alternet.org/2015/06/15-ways-bill-clintons-white-house-failed-america-and-world/ and https://www.history.com/news/clinton-1990s-welfare-reform-facts.)

In addition, Clinton curried favor with Wall Street at the expense of most Americans by signing into law more financial deregulation legislation than any other president, according to the Columbia Journalism Review. Among the worst acts was his dissolution of the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act, which had protected people’s savings accounts from being used by investment banks on speculative financial deals. This was a major factor leading to the 2008 Great Recession.

When President Obama took over the Democratic Party, he followed in Clinton’s footsteps by bailing out Wall Street while providing little assistance to the millions of Americans who had lost their homes in the Great Recession. By the time Hillary Clinton ran for president in 2016, the American people were fed up with the Establishment of both parties who favored Wall Street and their big donors over them. That opened the door to the White House to outsider Donald Trump.

Now outsider Bernie Sanders is leading the Democratic primary race. Given the recent history of the Democratic Party, it stands to reason that a major factor in Sanders’ rise in popularity is his rejection of the centrist establishment, Clinton approach of fostering close connections to Wall Street and Big Money. Somehow the party establishment has not gotten the message: The American people are tired of playing second fiddle to corporate America and Big Money interests.

Sanders promises to revive the progressive values of FDR, JFK and LBJ. He’s calling for what most Americans want: a $15/hr. living wage (67% according to Pew Research Center) , healthcare for all (56% according to Kaiser Family Fdn), stricter gun control laws (60% according to Pew), and a Green New Deal (80% of registered voters according to Yale Program on Climate Communication). Yes, it’s radical to the Establishment who want the government to continue protecting its interests at the people’s expense. But it’s not radical to all those who’ve seen little rise in their income, higher and higher health insurance and pharmaceutical bills, more and more friends and family shot to death, and the government doing very little to remedy these and other real problems.

People like MSNBC pundit Chris Matthews are the radical ones. His calling Sanders’ Nevada primary victory akin to the Nazis conquest of France is outrageous. The “liberal” media seems just as threatened by Sanders as the Establishment. They both fear losing their power and influence in the political arena, and don’t get how fed up so many Americans are with Washington and its do-nothing politics.

Trump conned America into believing he would clean “the swamp.” But, he’s only made it worse. If the Democratic Party wants to win in November, it better get behind the man that truly speaks for the people. Bernie looks like the real deal. He appears to be the only candidate who is building a mass movement, including millions of disillusioned and new voters, capable of the wave election needed to sweep Trump out of office. Given the chance, Sanders really could “Make America Great Again.”

Email the DNC at info@dnc.com, Chris Matthews at hardball@msnbc.com, or, call MSNBC at (212) 664-4444 and tell them to stop bashing Sanders and work with him to defeat Trump.

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.

 

The Struggle for the Soul of America: The Democrats Must Unite Now!

It’s hard to determine which Democratic candidate has the best chance of defeating Donald Trump in November at this point in the primaries. Since the Democrats’ overriding goal is to beat Trump, it’s even harder to understand why so many mainstream Democrats are bashing Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Party’s current leading contender.

Many Americans believe that a second Trump term could be the end of democracy in the United States. According to Truthout, “there’s an actual (Republican) project to rewrite our Constitution, turning America into a corporate-run oligarchy.” See https://www.truthdig.com/articles/trumps-reelection-could-spell-the-end-of-american-democracy/.

Nevertheless, if Sanders gets the nomination, some observers presume that the Democratic Party will “hope that Bernie Sanders gets destroyed by Donald Trump, and then wag their fingers at the left for the next 20 years until they get another Bill Clinton.” See https://www.truthdig.com/articles/the-clinton-machine-will-do-anything-to-stop-bernie-sanders/.

It’s difficult to imagine that the Democratic Party would really rather endure four more years of Trump with the likelihood of the destruction of our democratic republic than a populist Sanders presidency promoting many of the ideals that the Democratic Party has long stood for. But, for a fair number of centrist Democrats that appears to be the case.

The Party seems to think that a more moderate candidate like Biden, Buttigieg, Klobuchar or Bloomberg would have a better chance of winning the Whitehouse than Sanders or Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the other progressive still in the race. Party leaders conveniently forget that all the Party’s recent presidential defeats were led by more centrist establishment Democrats like Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Al Gore. The only recent Democratic presidential winner was Barack Obama, a relative outsider who excited millions of Americans with his message of “hope and change.”

Could it be that the Democratic establishment is more concerned with maintaining control of the Party than with beating the want-to-be autocrat Trump? Is the party establishment not much different than the Republicans in that it is willing to put party over country? If Sanders wins the nomination, will the Party give its full support to its nominee for the good of the country, or sit on its hands because it didn’t get its way? Which is exactly what the Party fears Sanders’ supporters will do if he doesn’t get the nomination.

The truth is the American people are fed up with Washington insiders from both parties who are more interested in advancing their party and serving Wall Street and their Big Money donors, than they are in supporting Main Street and the concerns of average Americans. Outsider Trump got elected, in large part, because he ranted against the Washington swamp and empathized with angry blue-collar workers ignored by both parties.

The only way Democrats win this November is with a candidate that will motivate voters to turn out in record numbers. Clearly, Trump is a very flawed candidate, but he does have a good economy, a corrupt Republican Party and a strong base behind him. Republicans will purge voter rolls, reduce polling locations and do whatever else they can to ensure Trump is declared the winner.

Consequently, the Democratic presidential candidate cannot just rely on anti-Trump sentiment to take back the White House. Many regular Democrats failed to vote in 2016 because Hillary Clinton did not inspire them. She did not have a clear, strong inclusive message that grabbed voters. Hundreds of thousands of Obama voters in Philadelphia, Detroit and Milwaukee stayed home which gave Trump his margin of victory. Contrary to Clinton’s allegations, Sanders was not responsible for Hillary’s losing the election.

Bottom line: the establishment Democrats and the progressive Democrats, the centrists and the leftists, must come together now. Not after a huge convention fight in July which will likely result in more bitterness and divisiveness, leaving the Party with a great self-inflicted disadvantage going into the general election. Today, every Democrat must loudly and clearly declare that “we are all in this together” and that we will all wholeheartedly support whomever demonstrates he or she has the people’s support by winning the primaries. And, the Democratic National Committee must vigorously promote that strategy right away.

To win in November, the Democrats must unite now under the common purpose of defeating Trump and taking back our country. As concerned citizens, we all must do whatever we can to help make that happen. Here’s what you can do:

Call, write and/or visit your Democratic county and state party leaders.

Call, write and/or visit your elected Democratic Representatives (202-224-3121) and Senators (Toll free 866-338-1015).

Demand that the Democratic moderates and progressives come together for the good of our nation. Divided we fall. United we win.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Moneys 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/how-to-unite-the-democratic-party/blog/. Join the unstoppable movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Never Give Up!

“Never give up. No matter what is going on around you. Never give up,” counsels the Dalai Lama.

We are in very perilous times. Donald Trump just had the best week of his presidency. Except for Mitt Romney, the Republican Senate stuck together and found Trump “not guilty” in his impeachment trial, while the Democrats couldn’t even competently conduct the Iowa state caucus. The stock market is at an all time high. Though the economy is quite good for those at the top, a great many Americans have seen little benefit from it. Unemployment is low, but wages have not kept pace. Trump has his highest poll ratings ever and he’s feeling pretty invincible, an autocrat in the making.

I feel we are living in a period somewhat comparable to 1933 Germany, the year the democratically elected Reichstag relinquished its constitutional authority and power to Hitler and the Nazis. That is effectively what the Republican senators did when they found Trump not guilty of abusing his power. Now he feels free to use the presidency for whatever scheme will further his own personal and political interests. Like many Americans, I’m angry and nervous, and getting more so day-by-day.

How could it have come to this? Where did we go wrong? And, what do we do now to save our country from this criminal egomaniac who believes he can do whatever he wants and be president for life?

It’s this last question that we need to focus on: What do we do now to ensure Trump is not re-elected in November? Here’s a few suggestions:

First, don’t panic. It’s alright to be afraid and in despair about the state our nation is in. Express your anger, fear, disgust, whatever, but please don’t let it get the best of you. Your fellow Americans need you to keep it together and fight for what’s right. Your country needs you.

Second, don’t be fooled by all the misinformation and lies coming from Trump, or, for that matter, from the Democrats. The fact that a partisan Senate failed to hold Trump accountable does not make the serious charges against him a “hoax.” Nor, does the Democratic establishment’s efforts to bash Sen. Sanders mean he would be trounced by Trump in the general election. See https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/02/11/sanders-crushes-trump-18-points-among-independent-voters-new-national-general.

Third, believe in yourself and the goodness of others. We have the wisdom, the strength, the compassion and the understanding to get through this. Do not give up hope. Remember America survived the Civil War and overcame Nazi Germany.

See https://www.wbur.org/cognoscenti/2020/02/05/trump-impeachment-acquittal-steve-almond fbclid=IwAR3UN7ipM1dem8nqeZy4aelzW4DnpEGt4iLkpOqoQNx9_XvDwhQ5Re7FMlI.

Fourth, allow your feelings to be a positive motivating force to move you to constructive action. Find something that you believe can help make a difference. If it doesn’t work, try something else. Become a voter registrar. Join an organization working to root out corruption and make our elections fair. Support a candidate you believe can beat Trump. Get involved in the struggle for the soul of America. Taking action is good therapy for disillusionment.

Fifth, connect with your fellow Americans. We are all in this together. Don’t isolate yourself. Defeating Trump and his cohorts requires that we work together. We need to build a huge movement that is “too big to fail.”

Finally, heed the Dalai Lama’s advice: “Never give up. No matter what is going on around you. Never give up.”

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Moneys 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/how-to-unite-the-democratic-party/blog/. Join the unstoppable movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Don’t Let Them Steal the Election Again!

Our government is failing us. We can rightly place a good deal of the blame on Mitch McConnell and the senate Republicans who orchestrated the sham impeachment trial of President Trump, refusing to allow any witness testimony or documental evidence. While the outcome would most likely have remained the same, the American people had a right to see and hear all the evidence. In truth, the trial was a cover-up and the Republicans should be ashamed of themselves.

However, there’s plenty of blame to go around for our deteriorating democracy. Just last month we marked the tenth anniversary of the infamous Citizens United decision which opened the floodgates of dark money into our political system. We can thank the U.S. Supreme Court for that punch in the gut to our democratic principles.

But don’t think it’s all a conservative Republican conspiracy that’s killing our democratic republic. While President Barack Obama’s policies saved the country from near economic collapse, his refusal to prosecute the Wall Street bandits who brought down the economy effectively gave the perpetrators of the 2008 Great Recession the greenlight to do it again. Consequently, many blue-collar Obama voters turned to Trump in 2016, believing he would clean up the Washington swamp and protect them from further Wall Street corruption.

And, don’t forget President Bill Clinton, who abandoned FDR’s Glass-Steagall Act, which had put a firewall between commercial and investment banking for some 66 years. When Clinton agreed to take down that wall, he opened the door wide to overzealous investing. This led to the fraudulent Wall Street practices which, in large part, contributed to the 2008 economic collapse.

Al Gore and the Democratic Party also played a role in our national downfall when they conceded the 2000 election and failed to support the Congressional Black Caucus’s legitimate challenge to Florida’s fraudulent Electoral College delegation. We paid for Gore’s lack of bold leadership and the Democrats’ timidity with eight years of George Bush and the disastrous Iraq War.

Nevertheless, there is a fundamental difference between these major political decisions. While the Democrats have made serious political and policy miscalculations, their inclination has been to put country over party. Gore conceded the 2000 election for the good of the country. Obama focused on restoring the economy rather than punishing the bankers, believing it was for the common good.

Republicans, on the other hand, often favor party over country in their continuous onslaught to control the government. The Republican senate’s sham impeachment trial protecting their party’s president from the country’s right to the truth is just the latest illustration.  Moreover, the Republican Party has been stealing our elections through voter suppression, voter registration purges and other election manipulations for more than 100 years. Their thirst for power increasingly takes precedence over upholding fundamental American principles of fairness and equality upon which our nation was founded.

For example, in 2019 alone, the Republican-controlled state of Ohio purged nearly 500,000 voters, most of them suspected Democrats. The Democratic Party failed to prevent the purge, and is on course to lose this critical swing state yet again. According to  & Truthout (See https://truthout.org/articles/election-theft-is-a-120-year-tradition-lets-end-it-this-year/), “the corporate Democrats did win the presidency in 2000, 2004 and 2016. Each time they walked away without a word (except to blame the left). The Gore, Kerry and Clinton campaigns all were shafted by the GOP stripping the voter rolls and flipping electronic vote counts. But instead of fighting to change the basic nature of our electoral system, they have blamed the left — and left the machinery of theft in place. So the same pattern of fraud and deceit that cost the Democrats three of the last five presidential elections could strike again in 2020.

“Put simply, since the theft of Florida 2000, the Democrats have failed to protect the vote, failed to provide reliable voting machines and failed to abolish the Electoral College — all of which could enthrone Donald Trump in 2020….

“Officially decided by 537 votes, the 2000 election in Florida was turned by Gov. Jeb Bush’s stripping of more than 90,000 people allegedly with felony convictions (the vast majority of them people of color) from the voter rolls, disenfranchising them using a law from the former Confederacy…. But Ralph Nader is still being blamed for the Democrats’ defeat.”

We must not allow this to happen again. Join the grassroots movement at the Transformative Justice Coalitionvote.org, and rockthevote.org fighting to protect our 2020 elections.  If our democratic republic is to survive, it is up to all of us to ensure that this movement succeeds.

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.

Please share this blog on Facebook, other social media and with your email lists. Subscribe to the blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/how-to-unite-the-democratic-party/blog/. Let’s connect and build an unstoppable movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.

 

The Struggle for the Soul of America: The Squeeze Is On

With the latest revelation from John Bolton’s upcoming book, the squeeze is on Senate Republicans. According to the New York Times, the book, The Room Where It Happened, describes how last August President Trump told Bolton, his national security adviser, that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens.

Later this week the Senate will vote on whether to allow new evidence, witnesses and documents, to be included in Trump’s impeachment trial. At least four Republicans must vote with the 45 Democrats and two Independents for the Senate to permit the admission of new evidence. If Senate Republicans stick together and refuse to hear Bolton’s testimony as well as other new evidence, the outcry that Republican senators are complicit in a grand coverup will be deafening. And, the resulting partisan acquittal of the president will carry little, if any, weight.

Key Republicans, including Susan Collins, Mitt Romney, Lamar Alexander, and Lisa Murkowski, are feeling major pressure. How can any Republican senator go back home to his or her constituents and claim the trial was fair and the verdict was proper if no witnesses testify and no documents are placed in evidence?

Over 70% of Americans want a fair trial with witnesses and documents to expose the truth regarding Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. Senators know that they are on trial as well. A third of the Senate, including 23 Republicans, will face the voters in November. Their re-election may very well hinge on how they vote in the impeachment trial, both regarding witnesses and the ultimate verdict. The squeeze is on Senate Republicans.

At the same time, no senator really wants to be labeled as the deciding vote, either to allow or block new evidence. Consequently, it appears there is a movement afoot to enlist a block of Republican senators, perhaps as many as ten, to support admitting new evidence. Sens. Collins and Romney have been most outspoken about the need for more evidence. But now, even Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally, has acknowledged that Bolton may be “a relevant witness” and said he’d consider subpoenaing a manuscript of his book.

The vote on whether to inject new witnesses and documents into the impeachment trial is likely to occur this Thursday or Friday. According to interviews with a number of senators, they pay attention to their constituents’ phone calls to their offices. So, it’s time to pick up your phone and call your senators, even if they are Democrats who will be voting in favor of new evidence. The more they hear from their constituents, the more likely they are to increase the pressure on their Republican colleagues.

Of course, if one or both of your senators is a Republican, you can truly have an impact on their thinking on this issue. Encourage your friends and family to call as well.

Perhaps most importantly, if you have friends or family represented by Republican senators, particularly those senators up for re-election and/or in swing states, call or email them and encourage them to call their senators and lobby those senators to support the call for new evidence. Americans deserve the truth.

The U.S. Capitol switchboard number is (202) 224-3121. A switchboard operator will connect you directly with the Senate office you request.

The future of our country is on the line. The soul of America is calling out for each of us to do our part. Don’t ever doubt that You Can Make a Difference. 

And read: https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/01/27/blow-phones-demands-boltonmusttestify-surge-after-new-revelations-about-ukrainian?cd-origin=rss&utm_term=AO&utm_campaign=Daily%20Newsletter&utm_content=email&utm_source=Daily%20Newsletter&utm_medium=Email

Bruce Berlin

This blog is an extension of my book, Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America. Please share my blog on Facebook, on other social media and with your email lists. Feel free to make comments or ask me questions. Subscribe to the blog at the top, left hand side of the blog page on my website, https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/how-to-unite-the-democratic-party/blog/, and keep sharing it with everyone. Let’s connect and build an unstoppable movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.

Bruce Berlin is a retired, public sector ethics attorney. He 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, the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution, and a practitioner of Buddhist meditation. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

 

 

 

The Struggle for the Soul of America: The Heart of Our Dilemma

The Struggle for the Soul of America is a weekly blog focusing on issues related to the current state of our country, the 2020 elections and the urgent need for the American people to act to save our democracy. I hope you will find the blog worth your time, encourage others to read it, and join in the struggle for the soul of America. Previously published blogs in this series may be found by clicking on the blog link on the home page of  my website, https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/.

The impeachment trial of President Trump that started today is a major battle in the struggle for the soul of America.  On one level it’s all about politics, pitting the Democratic majority in the House against the Republican majority in the Senate. On closer examination, however, it’s about upholding the Constitution, the highest law of the land. Specifically, under the Constitution it is an abuse of his executive power for Trump to solicit a foreign power to assist him in his re-election campaign. Moreover, it is an obstruction of Congress’s impeachment power for Trump to fail to produce documents or to order government officials not to testify when Congress has lawfully subpoenaed them.

But, it goes even deeper than that. The fundamental question that Trump’s impeachment trial raises is who are we as Americans and as a nation. Does our country truly stand for the basic principles of fairness and justice, and that no one is above the law?

Unfortunately, the Senate does not appear inclined to address these fundamental issues. Despite taking an oath to impartial justice as jurors in the trial, many senators would rather play politics than stand up for American values and conduct a full and fair trial in order to make an impartial judgement based on all the facts. Isn’t the Senate, let alone the American people, entitled to see all the documents and hear from all the relevant witnesses? In effect, the soul of the Senate, its ability to be fair, true to its oath and protect the Constitution, is also on trial.

At this critical juncture in our country’s history, I believe each one of us must do some serious soul searching and ask: How far am I willing to go and what am I willing to sacrifice to ensure that my country maintains the rule of law and continues on the path toward a truly representative democracy?

In response to my initial blog last week, someone wrote to me and suggested I replace “struggle” in the name of the blog with something more positive. He felt that most people “don’t…want to struggle.” While I tend to agree with his perception, I think he inadvertently struck at the heart of our dilemma. While we are in a life and death struggle for the survival of American democracy, most Americans don’t have the time and/or the inclination to actively engage in this fight as if their freedom and, perhaps, even their lives depend on it. If we are not willing to face this struggle head on, we will never be able to muster the courage, make the sacrifices and produce the resources to save our country from those who are actively engaged in transforming it into an autocracy, or worse.

Of course, we do not want to struggle. But, do we really have a choice? Whether it was ending slavery, gaining women’s suffrage, defeating Nazi Germany, establishing civil rights, or any other major battle in American history, being willing to struggle and sacrifice was central to overcoming the opposition and prevailing.

That brings us back to Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate. We cannot just sit back and watch it unfold on TV. We must stand up and make our voices heard by calling senators, writing letters to the editor, demanding the trial include witnesses, marching in the streets, calling in to talk radio shows, sitting in at Congressional offices, whatever it takes. We are the foot soldiers in this battle for the soul of America. It is up to us to turn our country around.

Bruce Berlin

This blog is an extension of my book, Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America. Please share my blog on Facebook, on other social media and with your email lists. Feel free to make comments or ask me questions. Subscribe to the blog at the top, left hand side of the blog page on my website, https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/how-to-unite-the-democratic-party/blog/, and keep sharing it with everyone. Let’s connect and build an unstoppable movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.

Bruce Berlin is a retired, public sector ethics attorney. He 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, the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution, and a practitioner of Buddhist meditation. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

The Struggle for the Soul of America 

Today I’m initiating a new weekly blog, The Struggle for the Soul of America. It will focus on issues related to the current state of our country, the 2020 elections and the urgent need for the American people to act to save our democracy. I hope you will find the blog worth your time, encourage others to read it, and join in the struggle for the soul of America.

Bruce Berlin

A Pivotal Time in Our Country 

The 2020 elections will be a defining moment in the history of the United States. This year may well rival the Civil War as the most pivotal time in our history in determining the future direction of the nation. For all of us who care about this country, it’s time we join together in the struggle for the soul of America. Our country desperately needs us.

This is not about political parties. Nor is it about liberal versus conservative ideologies. Rather, the critical issue is what are the values we hold dear and would be willing to fight for. Do we truly believe in justice, equality, fair play and the rule of law? Or, are we willing to forfeit our democratic heritage and allow money and power to control our nation?

A great many Americans – Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike – are appalled by the direction in which our country is headed:

  • The increasingly huge gap between the ultra-rich and most Americans.
  • The undue influence over public policy by corporate America and the One Percent.
  • The disregard for the environment and the ever-mounting disasters of the changing climate.
  • The corruption, disdain for the common good and the loss of our democracy.

Our nation is fast becoming a plutocracy, a state ruled by and for the very wealthy. Too many of our political leaders have been bought by and do the bidding of the extremely rich and powerful. Sadly, they lack the will and the wisdom to halt the decimation of our democratic processes and set the nation on a positive course for the public good. Members of both political parties bear some responsibility for the crippled state of American democracy.

In fact, I would argue that we are all ultimately responsible. The vast majority of we Americans have stood by and watched as our nation has been overtaken by corporate America and the ultra-wealthy. At the same time, only We, the people, can save our country. The question is do we collectively have the heart, the courage and the strength of character to take on and overcome the greedy and powerful? Now is the time we must answer that call.

While many are at a loss as to what to do, a great number of us have not been personally affected by this terrifying breach in our democracy and fail to fully grasp the national tragedy we are facing. Too many Americans are either too comfortable, on the one hand, or, on the other, too busy surviving day-to-day to answer the call. Consequently, those of us who recognize the impending catastrophe and have the time and resources must sound the alarm and organize the masses.

This blog is an extension of my book, Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America. From week to week, the blog will examine critical issues we face and explore ways we can resolve them. Here’s how you can help. Share my blog on Facebook, on other social media and with your email lists. Feel free to make comments or ask me questions. Subscribe to the blog at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com, and keep sharing it with everyone. Let’s connect and build an unstoppable movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.

Bruce Berlin is a retired, public sector ethics attorney. He 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, the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution, and a practitioner of Buddhist meditation. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

Let’s Reframe Gun Control To Focus on Our Safety

Gun violence has become a raging epidemic in the United States. And it’s not just due to mass shootings. On average 93 people die from gunshot wounds in this country everyday.1 In 2016, more than 38,000 people were killed by firearms.2 What can we do to stem this horrific tide of violence?

Over 90% of Americans, including 86% of Republicans, support universal background checks.3 At the same time, the majority of us believe it’s practically impossible to fight the all-powerful gun lobby. We watch these tragedies escalate and feel helpless to prevent the next one: 58 innocent people are randomly killed, 527 others injured by a lone gunman at an outdoor concert4; young children are murdered in their schools; and others killed in their church or at the movies.

Now no place is safe. None of us can feel secure when we could easily be the next victim of gun violence. Our personal safety, as well as that of our loved ones’, is in real danger. The truth is we can no longer afford to sit back, waiting around like ducks in a shooting gallery. We all must get involved now.

While a movement to prevent gun violence is growing throughout the country, a massive campaign to increase the public’s understanding of this issue is essential. This became really clear to me during a conversation I had on my flight to Philadelphia last Thanksgiving. As I spoke to the woman seated next to me about the ever-increasing gun violence in our country, she explained that she was a gun owner who supported universal background checks. An intelligent, former defense contractor, this mother of three children then startled me by noting she opposed gun control. I was confused. How could this be?

Like many gun owners, she believed gun control meant the government wanted to take away her guns. I responded that gun control is about keeping people safe, not gun confiscation. But clearly she was listening to the message of the gun lobby, which prevents even the most common sense gun control laws from being enacted, such as keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, domestic violence abusers, even known terrorists. Clearly, we need to better educate the public about the meaning and purpose of gun control.

So how can we articulate the gun control message more effectively? What if instead of emphasizing gun control, there was a Movement for the Safety of All Americans? If the problem were framed as a domestic and public safety issue rather than a gun control matter, perhaps we could build greater demand for conquering this national epidemic.

When people feel that a problem personally affects them, they are much more likely to become involved in solving it. The history of mass movements in America bears that out. From Women’s Suffrage and Labor to Civil Rights and LGBTQ issues, mass movements have arisen to demand that the nation address the critical needs of millions of its citizens. The threat that gun violence poses to our safety is not being met with the urgency, resources and all-out response this crisis requires. Making the prevention of gun violence a nationwide, public safety emergency could galvanize the nation to cure this epidemic.

Mass movements have always faced very strong resistance from the status quo. The gun lobby has an extremely strong grip on many members of Congress. In 2014, gun rights advocates spent over $30 million on campaigns and lobbying while gun control reformers spent less than $10 million.5 (See nmmop.org to help get Big Money Out of Politics.) Still, the polls indicate that the people overwhelmingly want gun control. As Americans’ resolve to defeat gun violence grows, our resignation that it is hopeless will dissipate.

Therefore, we must all get involved. Here in New Mexico, you can join New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence (www.newmexicanstopreventgunviolence.org).

If you live in another state, find a similar organization to support and help build the grassroots effort for the safety of all Americans. Our mass movement can beat back the gun lobby and force our state legislatures and Congress to act despite the opposition. Together we can make America safe again!

  1. See https://everytownresearch.org/gun-violence-by-the-numbers/#DailyDeaths.
  2. See https://www.yahoo.com/news/much-really-know-gun-violence-200525739.html.
  3. See https://poll.qu.edu/national/release-detail?ReleaseID=2057.
  4. See https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/02/us/las-vegas-shooting.html.
  5. See https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/how-loaded-is-the-gun-lobby/

American Politics in Moral Free-Fall

            A dark cloud hangs over our country. With the recent Las Vegas mass murder and our government’s pathetic response to the devastating hurricane in Puerto Rico, America’s fall from grace quickens. While Donald Trump embodies much of that darkness, all of the blame for the ugly state of our country’s politics cannot be laid at his feet. Both political parties bear a good deal of the responsibility. When it comes right down to it, all that seems to matter to our politicians is winning and the money it takes to come out on top.

            Back in 2009, not long after Barak Obama was elected president, the Republican Congressional leadership agreed to a “strategy of all-out resistance” to the new Democratic president.1 Despite Obama’s considerable efforts to reach out to Congressional Republicans, they continually refused to work with him.2 Beating our first African-American president was much more important to the Republicans than helping millions of Americans obtain health insurance. That was the case despite the fact that Obamacare was fashioned after the conservative Heritage Foundation’s market-based proposal which Republican Governor Mitt Romney had already implemented in Massachusetts.3

                  Obama and the Democrats put politics before people as well. Rather than helping millions of Americans avoid losing their homes during the Great Recession, the Obama administration chose to direct almost all of the TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) funds to the Wall Street banks whose corrupt and fraudulent practices were largely responsible for the country’s economic collapse.4 Moreover, Obama refused to extract foreclosure relief measures from our nation’s biggest banks in return for the huge bailout they received. Apparently, Obama and his big banker appointees cared a great deal more about the president’s campaign contributors on Wall Street than they did about average Americans on Main Street. No Wall Street bankers went to jail for the grave damage they had caused the country.5

            Since then, our politics have only gotten worse. During the entire eight years of the Obama presidency, the Republicans were the ‘Party of No.’ Unprecedented in modern American history, they refused to work with the president on practically any issue. While they were unable to defeat Obamacare, the GOP’s obstructionism assisted them in attaining numerous victories. Not only did the Republicans win back the House in 2010 and the Senate in 2014, but they also denied Obama a Supreme Court appointment, won the White House in 2016 and placed their own conservative justice on the Court once Trump became president.

            Meanwhile, the Democrats continued to cozy up to Wall Street and their Big Money special interests rather than provide programs that would be most beneficial to the American people. That was the case even with Obamacare. While the program did extend healthcare to millions of previously uncovered Americans, it failed to offer a ‘public option,’ which would have helped keep consumers’ costs down. Instead of fighting for an alternative choice to compete with the insurance industry, Obama and Congressional Democrats sided with the private insurers and excluded the public option from the legislation.

            Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign further demonstrated where the Democrats’ loyalties lie. Clinton attended numerous gatherings hosted by her Big Money donors while failing to address the pressing concerns of blue-collar workers. But for the groundswell of support for Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders in the 2016 election, the Democratic Party platform would not have focused on those issues either. Nevertheless, Clinton refused to endorse reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act and other strong Wall Street regulations, much to the delight of her wealthiest supporters.

            Trump and the Republican Party are also tied to Big Money, probably even more so. Despite his campaign promises to the contrary, Trump has not drained the Washington swamp. In fact, he has enlarged it by filling his cabinet with billionaires, who, like him, are more interested in profiting personally from their positions than they are in enhancing the public good. Take Steve Mnuchin, for example, one of several wealthy former Goldman Sachs executives now in Trump’s Cabinet. During the 2008 financial crisis, Mnuchin chaired OneWest Bank, which used fabricated and “robo-signed” documents to secure evictions, and routinely dispossessed the homes of senior citizens and people of color.6

            As Treasury Secretary, Mnuchin helped draft Trump’s new tax plan. Under this scheme, taxes will go up for many families that are just scraping by while the rich benefit. These tax increases will not pay for health care, food, or housing, but will provide the basis for lowering taxes on the wealthy, resulting in the richest one percent of families in the U.S., including Mnuchin’s, receiving an increase in income of 8.5 percent after taxes.7 This is just one of many giveaways for corporations and multimillionaires offered in the Republicans’ tax plan.

            Is there any way to stop this moral free-fall in American politics? Throughout our history Americans have risen up in mass movements — be it for women’s suffrage, labor, the environment or LBGTQ rights — and successfully demanded a reformation of our country’s values and priorities. Isn’t it time we do it again in the name of fairness and economic justice for all Americans?

Bruce Berlin is the president of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics (nmmop.org) and the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America.

1 See http://swampland.time.com/2012/08/23/the-party-of-no-new-details-on-the-gop-plot-to-obstruct-obama/.

2 See http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/73971-obamas-first-year-yields-few-results-in-drive-for-bipartisanship.

3 See http://boston.cbslocal.com/2013/11/13/romneycare-vs-obamacare-key-similarities-differences/.

4 See http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/secret-and-lies-of-the-bailout-20130104.

5 See https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/09/barack-obama-legacy-presidency.

6 See https://newrepublic.com/article/133368/donald-trumps-finance-chair-anti-populist-hell.

7 See https://www.commondreams.org/views/2017/10/03/lets-stop-gops-biggest-grift-all.