The Struggle for the Soul of America: Will Senate Republicans Stick With Trump?

Just prior to Pres. Nixon’s resignation in 1974, Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-AZ) fumed to his colleagues: “There are only so many lies you can take, and now there has been one too many. Nixon should get his ass out of the White House—today!”[1]

On August 7 of that year, Sen. Goldwater and two other Republican Congressional leaders went to the White House and told President Nixon he had lost the support of his party and had to resign.[2] The next day the president resigned. Will history repeat itself this year?

As of early April, Trump had made 18,000 false or misleading statements since becoming president.[3] If the latest accusation of Trump’s lying is true, I believe it just may be “one too many” for many Congressional Republicans.

According to the New York Times, Trump was briefed in March about Russian military intelligence paying the Taliban bounty to kill U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan and has yet to take any action against Russia.[4] While the White House has denied that Trump was “verbally briefed,”[5] it has not denied that the information was in the president’s daily intelligence reports. Since it is common knowledge that Trump does not read these daily intelligence briefings,[6] we have to ask ourselves: How can Trump be fulfilling his most sacred presidential responsibility of keeping Americans safe if he is not staying up to date with his intelligence reports?

Can Congressional Republicans actually put up with such an unconscionable failure of duty from their president? Will they continue to stick with Trump?

I can think of only one thing worse for Republicans than losing the White House this year. And that would be losing control of the U.S. Senate. Maintaining a majority in the Senate would allow Republicans to rein in a President Biden, just as they did President Obama in the last two years of his administration. If the Republicans increasingly fear standing with Trump will cost them control of the Senate, they could decide that ditching the president is in their greater self-interest. With 87% of Americans dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country and only 19% of Republicans satisfied in a recent poll,[7] Senate Republicans might just conclude that their only hope of saving their own skins is abandoning Trump. We can only hope.

Contact Republican senators. Go to https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact for their phone numbers. Call and urge them to stand up to Trump.

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.

[1] https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/01/22/trump-impeachment-watergate-barry-goldwater-101836

[2] https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/Decoder/2014/0807/Richard-Nixon-s-resignation-the-day-before-a-moment-of-truth#:~:text=Forty%20years%20ago%2C%20a%20Republican%20delegation%20led%20by,support%20in%20Congress.%20The%20next%20day%2C%20he%20resigned.

[3] https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/04/14/president-trump-made-18000-false-or-misleading-claims-1170-days/

[4] https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/26/us/politics/russia-afghanistan-bounties.html

[5] https://news.yahoo.com/trump-not-verbally-briefed-russia-231006318.html

[6] https://www.businessinsider.com/trump-looks-at-charts-in-intelligence-briefings-2020-5

[7] https://www.people-press.org/2020/06/30/publics-mood-turns-grim-trump-trails-biden-on-most-personal-traits-major-issues/#national-satisfaction-drops

 

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Do Your Part

Lately I’ve been struggling. Surely, I am not alone. Many others are wrestling with their consciences as well. On the one hand, I want to escape from the tsunami of chaos and pain that our country is enduring right now. At the same time, I feel a degree of guilt that I’m not doing enough to help alleviate the suffering and eliminate the injustices. Does this sound familiar?

I know that doing something, almost anything, that provides aid to those in need or supports the overhaul of our failing system can make a difference. If nothing else, it will make me feel better. If that’s not enough to motivate me to get off my butt and get involved, then my knowing that what I do will help relieve someone’s distress and/or advance the country toward a more equitable society should do it. If I’m not contributing in some way to the solution, then, as they say, I’m part of the problem.

While there’s an immense amount of work to be done to repair the harm and get the country on track, we cannot allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the enormity of the task at hand and become immobilized. Rather, I believe we need to pause, go within and examine ourselves, as well as the big picture.

Let’s ask ourselves: Where can I be most effective? What can I do that best utilizes my abilities and resources? And, how can I do it without getting burned out or despondent?

The truth is it’s up to all of us to abolish racism, reduce income inequality and fix our corrupt political system, among other pressing issues. Feeling guilty that I’m not doing enough only gets in my way of steping up and taking positive action. Making you feel guilty that you are not doing your part only isolates us from each other. We need to come together, work for the greater good and get the job done. Below are just a few of the many organizations which would love your assistance in accomplishing these goals.

And, as Jon Stewart poignantly observed in a recent New York Times Magazine interview,[1] we must address ‘why’ we are plagued with racism, police brutality, and a two-tiered society:

“(The) root of the problem is the society that we’ve created that contains this schism, and we don’t deal with it…

“It’s white people’s lack of being able to live up to the defining words of the birth of the country that is the problem.

“(The system) is incentivized for conflict as well as for corruption…which is money from large sources pouring into a place not to help, but to gain control…We’ve got a (expletive)-up permanent campaign system with too much money in it.

“What’s broken is the legislators’ ability to address the issues inherent in any society.”

Clearly, we have a number of systemic issues we must address as a nation if we are to begin to heal the country and move forward. Unfortunately, our current national leadership has no intention of doing this. Part of our job, then, is to install new leadership in Washington which understands these critical matters and has the courage and foresight to take them on.

At the same time, each of us must find the resolve to help stop the bleeding and rebuild our country. Here’s just a few suggestions of organizations you can contact to learn how you can help, or to obtain assistance for someone in need: New Mexico Government Assistance (https://www.newmexico.gov/i-need-assistance/), Black Lives Matter (https://blacklivesmatter.com/), New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics (http://nmmop.org/) which recently became RepresentUs New Mexico, Common Cause New Mexico (https://www.commoncause.org/new-mexico/) and Retake Our Democracy (https://retakeourdemocracy.org/).

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.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/06/15/magazine/jon-stewart-interview.html

 

The Struggle for the Soul of America: What Are We Called To Do Now?

I’ve just finished reading One Blade of Glass, Henry Shukman’s Zen memoir. An associate Zen master, Shukman is the leader of the Mountain Cloud Zen Center in Santa Fe. His book is helping me be more present in the moment.

The other day I was hiking in Mineral Hill near Las Vegas, NM. Sitting down to rest, I experienced a Zen moment in the midst of a pine forest. My body resonated with the slender trees swaying in the wind. I sensed a kinship with the majestic granite boulders surrounding me. Like the timeless forest, I was present and very alive.

I felt a million light years away from all the madness of our “civilized” world. The current state of our country can drive me crazy, if I let it. Being in nature allows me to maintain a more balanced perspective, a calm centeredness.  I find it helps to step away from the insanity of our planet, seemingly on the brink of disaster.

As much as I am grateful to escape from the chaos, I feel some responsibility for how we got here, as well as where we go next. Whether actively involved or passively watching on the sidelines, I believe we all have some accountability for the state of our country, and we each play a role in determining how and where the country shifts and turns going forward.

At the same time, letting go, being in a Zen mindset, allows me to be more fully immersed in life, from dancing with the pine trees in the forest to combating corruption in government. Being present and engaged, I empty my mind and become open to the all-encompassing present.

It may sound pretty simple, but it’s not. Our monkey minds are always thinking, always wanting something, so busy we have a hard time being present in the moment.

And look where it’s gotten us. Rioting and killing each other in the midst of a deadly pandemic, with an unstable, autocratic president in charge. A really terrible movie, which tragically has come to life.

Isn’t it time we turned the page? What if we were quiet and went within, as the Coronavirus has given us the opportunity to do, and took a real hard look at our present moment?

In our quiet, inward perspective, what are we being asked to do? What is our highest calling at this moment when so many Americans, as well as multitudes around the world, are suffering? How can we heal our country when it’s so deeply divided? What can we do to lift up those our nation has left behind? How can we overcome fear and rekindle love and respect in our country?

This is the present moment we find ourselves in. Can we take it all into our hearts and follow our inner wisdom? Do we have the courage to act now for the good of all the people?

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: Make America Safe for All

Cracks in the Trump firewall are finally appearing. Though rare for the military to publicly oppose a president, earlier this week Gen. James Mattis, Trump’s former Secretary of Defense, stated that he was “angry and appalled” at the White House’s use of military troops to disperse peaceful protests over the death of George Floyd.

Mattis was outraged that troops would be ordered “to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens – much less to provide a bizarre photo op (Trump holding a bible in front of St. John’s Church in DC) for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside.”[1]

Later that day, Retired Marine Gen. John Allen said President Trump’s threats to use the U.S. military on protesters “may well signal the beginning of the end of the American experiment.” Allen believes our Constitution is under attack. He was particularly struck by Trump’s claim to be “an ally of peaceful protesters” as he removed those peaceful protesters to clear the street for his blatantly political maneuver.[2]

Retired Adm. Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as other military leaders, are also criticizing the president. Mullen wrote, Trump “laid bare his disdain for the rights of peaceful protest in this country, gave succor to the leaders of other countries who take comfort in our domestic strife, and risked further politicizing the men and women of our armed forces.”[3]

Even a few Senate Republicans are speaking out against the president’s actions. Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse objected, “But there is a fundamental — a constitutional — right to protest, and I’m against clearing out a peaceful protest for a photo op that treats the word of God as a political prop.”[4] And, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) explained, “I don’t think militarization is the answer to the anxiety and fear, the distrust … that we feel right now. It is not the response.”[5]

Other Republicans are standing up to Trump as well. The Lincoln Project(https://lincolnproject.us/), was organized by major Republican figures,including attorney George Conway, the husband of Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway, to defeat Trump and Trumpism in November. Republicans for the Rule of Law has a similar goal. (https://www.ruleoflawrepublicans.com/) Contact these organizations and learn how you can help.

While some Republican officials and military leaders are beginning to speak truth to power, only the people are taking action and protesting Trump, his authoritarian administration and racial injustice. Where is Congress?

Why haven’t Republican and Democratic lawmakers responded to the people’s cries for equal justice under the law? Where is the funding for greater police oversight and the victims of the government’s racial abuses? And, why hasn’t Congress withheld funding from the Trump administration until it works with Congress to protect all Americans?

We, the people need to demand Congress act. It’s past time for Congress to stand up for our First Amendment rights. To enact legislation to protect all Americans against police brutality and racial bias. Those legislators who are unwilling to support and protect the American people against the Trump administration’s bigoted and unjust measures must be voted out of office this November.

Call your representative and senators ((202) 224-3121) and demand they take action to deal with these issues. See https://fundersforjustice.org/organizations/ for organizations you can support that are working on police accountability and racial justice. Let’s work together to make America a safe place for all its people.

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.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/06/james-mattis-denounces-trump-protests-militarization/612640/

[2] https://www.yahoo.com/news/retired-marine-general-john-allen-trump-military-beginning-of-the-end-america-152143340.html

[3] https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/06/trump-commanders-esper-mullen-miller.html

[4] https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/02/us/trump-republicans-protesters.html

[5] https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/500726-trumps-vow-to-deploy-military-faces-gop-pushback

 

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Hate in America

While our country is deep in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, another long-term, deadly infection has raised its ugly head once again. The police killing of an unarmed, black man, George Floyd, is just the latest example of the pervasive American curse of Hate.

We can no longer call the recurring killing of unarmed black men the use of excessive police force. The truth is these are hate crimes. In 2014, the shooting and killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by police officer Darren Wilson shocked the nation. In 2015 alone, the police killed over 100 unarmed black people, the great majority of them male.[1] The risk of being killed by police if you are a black male is almost three times as great than if you are white.[2]

Still, hate in America is not limited to racial bigotry. Immigrants, gays and lesbians, Jews and others have continuously been subjected to hate crimes. Today it’s gotten to the point where one’s political affiliation can make you the target of hate. Recently, a man in a Cowboys for Trump video proclaimed that “The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.”[3] While the man goes on to say he really only meant killing the Democratic agenda, if that’s the truth, he could have just said that. Clearly, he was inciting hate.

Then, none other than our bigot-in-chief, Donald Trump, retweeted this video on his official Twitter account, stating, “Thank you Cowboys. See you in New Mexico!” While hate in America certainly preceded Trump, he has done a great deal to foment and condone hate and bigotry in our country. In fact, Trump appears to be creating a “hate movement” to further his re-election prospects.[4]

A few months ago, after a Sikh temple in California was sprayed with white supremacist and neo-Nazi graffiti, Trump targeted leading Democrats and the Sikh community. He retweeted a doctored image showing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer wearing a turban and hijab while standing in front of the Iranian flag.[5]

Why is there so much hate in America? And, more importantly, what can we do about it? Studies have shown that fear underlies hate. A certain segment of our population feels threatened by those who are different from them:

“The research has shown that many dominant group members, often white Christians in the countries studied, express fear of immigrants in their nations. In particular, respondents have voiced fear of immigrants changing their cultural, political, and economic way of life.”[6]

This same phenomenon occurs whether the difference is racial, sexual preference, religious or whatever:

“People who hate tend to think, feel and behave from an “in-group” versus an “out-group” mentality….The “ins” use the “outs” as scapegoats for the social, economic, and political woes of the community….The underlying insidious presence of contempt and disgust – a deep dislike for the other who is considered unworthy of respect.”[7]

According to Psychology Today, “The change in our behavior as a society can only be sustained if we challenge the underlying beliefs and assumptions that maintain this toxic behavior.”

As always, it is up to us, the people, to speak out. We must stand up for our American values of inclusiveness and compassion. Let Trump and his bigoted followers know that we will not tolerate their hatred.

Call the White House to register your objection to Trump’s hateful rhetoric at 202-456-1111, or email at https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/. See https://fundersforjustice.org/organizations/ for organizations you can support that are working on police accountability and racial justice.

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://mappingpoliceviolence.org/unarmed

 [2] https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/after-ferguson-black-men-and-boys-still-face-the-highest-risk-of-being-killed-by-police

[3] https://www.theroot.com/trump-shares-video-claiming-the-only-good-democrat-is-1843732030

[4] https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/07/18/trump-is-leading-hate-movement-world-is-watching/

[5] https://www.newsweek.com/donald-trump-sikh-center-california-nazi-graffiti-1482045

[6] https://theconversation.com/the-psychology-of-fear-and-hate-and-what-each-of-us-can-do-to-stop-it-113710

[7] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/anxiety-fear-and-hate/201803/the-psychology-hate

 

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Going Within

My small neighborhood community in Mineral Hill outside of Las Vegas, NM, recently decided “going within” one day a week would be a valuable endeavor in these trying times when we are constantly being bombarded by outside stimuli. After one day of “going within,” I knew we were on to something.

On Wednesday I spent the day “going within.” No phones, no computers, no TVs, no interaction with anyone except for essential communication with my partner. In the morning I took stock of where I am right now. I wrote in my journal that “I’m feeling pretty good about my life.” That includes my relationships with my partner, my daughter and good friends; my health, my new home, my community, and even this blog. As I wrote, I realized how grateful I am for all that is going well in my little world.

During my afternoon of introspection, I recognized how clever it was of mother nature to require humanity to take a time out. I noted in my journal that “this is an incredible opportunity for me, everyone who has stopped the routine he or she normally follows, and the country as a whole, to go within.”

The next day a good friend called. I learned that a mutual friend of ours had suddenly become seriously ill and was taken to the hospital. Apparently, he was near death.

It was a true wake-up call. How quickly our lives can change. I was reminded how important it is to live each day to its fullest.

This led me to ask: How are we doing as a society? Why have we gotten so divided? Why can’t we live together? Why are people so driven to get as much as they can for themselves with no or little concern for how the less fortunate among us who are hurting, hungry, some homeless, are getting by or not?

It’s time for us to take a long, hard look at ourselves and our country. How can we inspire our country to live up to its honored values and highest potential for all Americans? We are in the midst of a spiritual crisis, as well as a health crisis and an economic crisis. Our country is at a moral crossroads: Will we take the highway to a better life for all, or the low road where it’s each one out for one’s self? This is the question we will answer in the fall election. But we can’t wait. Now is the time we must pave the way for a brighter, more equitable society.

By going within during this slowdown period, we have the opportunity to re-evaluate our nation’s priorities. Since we don’t have the national leadership to provide support and guidance in these troubled times, it’s up to us to find our way together.

We have many ways to get involved. Unite America (https://www.uniteamerica.org/) is working to make voting secure and accessible during COVID-19. When We All Vote (https://www.whenweallvote.org/) is focused on expanding vote-by-mail, early voting and online voter registration. Here in New Mexico, we can work on issues to revive our democracy with New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics (https://nmmop.org), Retake Our Democracy (https://retakeourdemocracy.org/), Common Cause New Mexico (https://www.commoncause.org/new-mexico/), or a number of other non-profit organizations.

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: All Hands On Deck

Most Americans are well aware of how critical this year’s election is. Nothing less than the survival of American democracy is at stake.

“(T)his election isn’t just about Biden vs. Trump. This is about democracy vs. fascism,” according to Peter Dreier, distinguished professor of politics at Occidental College. Prof. Dreier asserts that if Trump wins a second term, “he will double down on his fascist instincts and foment increasingly overt white supremacist violence, xenophobia, nativism, and anti-Semitism… We will see an unprecedented level of human suffering.” Dreier also believes Trump will:

  • seek to dismantle unions and workers’ rights,
  • slash the already-torn safety net,
  • eviscerate voting rights and civil liberties,
  • hand over more public funds and government services (such as prisons, the post office, health care, national parks, and schools) to big corporations, and
  • try to starve cities and states by denying federal funding for key services.[i]

The American people must take Prof. Dreier’s warning very seriously. When Trump signed the two-trillion-dollar coronavirus-relief package in late March, he rejected Congress’s oversight provision, declaring, “I’ll be the oversight.” A few days later, he fired the special inspector general who was to monitor spending, reporting to Congress anything that seemed amiss. Not long after that Trump proclaimed, “When somebody’s the President of the United States, the authority is total. It’s total.”[ii]

There is less than six months until the election. Americans are overwhelmed by the Coronavirus pandemic and the impact of a crashing economy. For most of us the November election is not our primary concern right now. Many are feeling hopeless about the state of the country as well as powerless to change it. Whatever our preoccupations and feelings may be, we cannot afford to ignore the urgency of this moment. Nor can we allow our disappointment that our preferred candidate is not heading the Democratic Party’s ticket dissuade us from working on this election.

We must act now to save our country from being destroyed by Trump’s “fascist instincts” in a second term.

The most important thing all of us can do from now till November is taking action to ensure that the election is conducted fairly. That includes:

  • developing a massive voter registration drive
  • establishing the universal right to vote-by-mail in every state and territory
  • supporting a concerted effort to expand early voting
  • protecting the U.S. Postal Service from being defunded or privatized to safeguard vote-by-mail
  • creating a public education campaign alerting the public to the great danger of a second Trump term is required as well

Now is the time to act before it’s too late. We all must get involved in one way or another. Join a voters’ rights group, for example:

The Voting Rights Alliance at https://www.votingrightsalliance.org/ ;

The Election Protection coalition at https://866ourvote.org/.

Together we can, and will, save our democracy. 

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.

[i] https://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/05/05/not-normal-election

[ii] https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/studying-fascist-propaganda-by-day-watching-trumps-coronavirus-updates-by-night

 

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Now, For The First Time, The World Pities The United States 

(Note: This week I’m doing something different. Instead of my view on some aspect of what’s happening in the world, I’m offering a perspective from Ireland. The article below by Fintan O’Toole appeared in the April 25th edition of The Irish Times. O’Toole provides a harsh reality check on what has become of our country.)

 

“The (coronavirus) crisis has shown definitively that Trump’s presidency is not an aberration. It has grown on soil long prepared to receive it.

“The monstrous blossoming of misrule has structure and purpose and strategy behind it. There are very powerful interests who demand “freedom” in order to do as they like with the environment, society and the economy. They have infused a very large part of American culture with the belief that “freedom” is literally more important than life. My freedom to own assault weapons trumps your right not to get shot at school. Now, my freedom to go to the barber (“I Need a Haircut” read one banner this week in St Paul, Minnesota) trumps your need to avoid infection.”

Here’s the article in full:

Over more than two centuries, the United States has stirred a very wide range of feelings in the rest of the world: love and hatred, fear and hope, envy and contempt, awe and anger. But there is one emotion that has never been directed towards the US until now: pity. 

However bad things are for most other rich democracies, it is hard not to feel sorry for Americans. Most of them did not vote for Donald Trump in 2016. Yet they are locked down with a malignant narcissist who, instead of protecting his people from Covid-19, has amplified its lethality. The country Trump promised to make great again has never in its history seemed so pitiful. 

Will American prestige ever recover from this shameful episode? The US went into the coronavirus crisis with immense advantages: precious weeks of warning about what was coming, the world’s best concentration of medical and scientific expertise, effectively limitless financial resources, a military complex with stunning logistical capacity and most of the world’s leading technology corporations. Yet it managed to make itself the global epicentre of the pandemic. 

As the American writer George Packer puts it in the current edition of the Atlantic, “The United States reacted … like Pakistan or Belarus – like a country with shoddy infrastructure and a dysfunctional government whose leaders were too corrupt or stupid to head off mass suffering.” It is one thing to be powerless in the face of a natural disaster, quite another to watch vast power being squandered in real time – wilfully, malevolently, 

vindictively. It is one thing for governments to fail (as, in one degree or another, most governments did), quite another to watch a ruler and his supporters actively spread a deadly virus. Trump, his party and Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News became vectors of the pestilence. 

The grotesque spectacle of the president openly inciting people (some of them armed) to take to the streets to oppose the restrictions that save lives is the manifestation of a political death wish. What are supposed to be daily briefings on the crisis, demonstrative of national unity in the face of a shared challenge, have been used by Trump merely to sow confusion and division. They provide a recurring horror show in which all the neuroses that haunt the American subconscious dance naked on live TV. 

If the plague is a test, its ruling political nexus ensured that the US would fail it at a terrible cost in human lives. In the process, the idea of the US as the world’s leading nation – an idea that has shaped the past century – has all but evaporated. It is hard to remember now but, even in 2017, when Trump took office, the conventional wisdom in the US was that the Republican Party and the broader framework of US political institutions would prevent him from doing too much damage. This was always a delusion, but the pandemic has exposed it in the most savage ways. 

Abject surrender 

What used to be called mainstream conservatism has not absorbed Trump – he has absorbed it. Almost the entire right-wing half of American politics has surrendered abjectly to him. It has sacrificed on the altar of wanton stupidity the most basic ideas of responsibility, care and even safety. Thus, even at the very end of March, 15 Republican governors had failed to order people to stay at home or to close non-essential businesses. In Alabama, for example, it was not until April 3rd that governor Kay Ivey finally issued a stay-at-home order. In Florida, the state with the highest concentration of elderly people with underlying conditions, governor Ron DeSantis, a Trump mini-me, kept the beach resorts open to students travelling from all over the US for spring break parties. Even on April 1st, when he issued restrictions, DeSantis exempted religious services and “recreational activities”. 

Georgia governor Brian Kemp, when he finally issued a stay-at-home order on April 1st, explained: “We didn’t know that [the virus can be spread by people without symptoms] until the last 24 hours.” 

This is not mere ignorance – it is deliberate and homicidal stupidity. There is, as the demonstrations this week in US cities have shown, plenty of political mileage in denying the reality of the pandemic. It is fueled by Fox News and far-right internet sites, and it reaps for these politicians millions of dollars in donations, mostly (in an ugly irony) from older people who are most vulnerable to the coronavirus. It draws on a concoction of conspiracy theories, hatred of science, paranoia about the “deep state” and religious providentialism (God will protect the good folks) that is now very deeply infused in the mindset of the American right. 

Trump embodies and enacts this mindset, but he did not invent it. The US response to the coronavirus crisis has been paralysed by a contradiction that the Republicans have inserted into the heart of US democracy. On the one hand, they want to control all the levers of governmental power. On the other they have created a popular base by playing on the notion that government is innately evil and must not be trusted. 

The contradiction was made manifest in two of Trump’s statements on the pandemic: on the one hand that he has “total authority”, and on the other that “I don’t take responsibility at all”. Caught between authoritarian and anarchic impulses, he is incapable of coherence. 

Fertile ground 

But this is not just Donald Trump. The crisis has shown definitively that Trump’s presidency is not an aberration. It has grown on soil long prepared to receive it. 

The monstrous blossoming of misrule has structure and purpose and strategy behind it. There are very powerful interests who demand “freedom” in order to do as they like with the environment, society and the economy. They have infused a very large part of American culture with the belief that “freedom” is literally more important than life. My freedom to own assault 

weapons trumps your right not to get shot at school. Now, my freedom to go to the barber (“I Need a Haircut” read one banner this week in St Paul, Minnesota) trumps your need to avoid infection. 

Usually when this kind of outlandish idiocy is displaying itself, there is the comforting thought that, if things were really serious, it would all stop. People would sober up. Instead, a large part of the US has hit the bottle even harder. And the president, his party and their media allies keep supplying the drinks. There has been no moment of truth, no shock of realisation that the antics have to end. No one of any substance on the US right has stepped in to say: get a grip, people are dying here. 

That is the mark of how deep the trouble is for the US – it is not just that Trump has treated the crisis merely as a way to feed tribal hatreds but that this behaviour has become normalised. When the freak show is live on TV every evening, and the star is boasting about his ratings, it is not really a freak show any more. For a very large and solid bloc of Americans, it is reality. 

And this will get worse before it gets better. Trump has at least eight more months in power. In his inaugural address in 2017, he evoked “American carnage” and promised to make it stop. But now that the real carnage has arrived, he is revelling in it. He is in his element. As things get worse, he will pump more hatred and falsehood, more death-wish defiance of reason and decency, into the groundwater. If a new administration succeeds him in 2021, it will have to clean up the toxic dump he leaves behind. If he is re- elected, toxicity will have become the lifeblood of American politics. Either way, it will be a long time before the rest of the world can imagine America being great again. 

4

The Struggle for the Soul of America: The Coronavirus Opportunity

According to an ancient Chinese proverb, “In every crisis, there’s opportunity.” As individuals as well as members of our communities and our country, the coronavirus crisis has given us a rare opportunity.

These are challenging times for all of us. A great many Americans have been isolated at home for the last month or more, held hostage by the coronavirus, COVID-19. Now that our busy schedules have been put on hold, we each have the time to really stop and re-examine our lives.

We might ask ourselves, what’s truly important to me? Life being so uncertain, how can I be more present and appreciate each passing moment? What can I do from now on to more closely align my life with my true purpose, my heart’s desires? In the BTC era (“Before the Coronavirus”), many of us were too wrapped up in our careers, our social lives, our next “whatever,” to go within and give these questions the serious consideration they deserve. Now this may be the most meaningful way to spend our time.

Being isolated, I am finding that my relationship to dear friends and loved ones is what I most value. I am learning to reach out in new ways, like Zoom, to stay bonded with them as well as to reconnect with old friends and family with whom I have lost touch. And, I am also missing my connection to Mother Earth. I yearn to be in the mountains again.

What do you value most?

This coronavirus-imposed isolation is also providing me with the opportunity to explore my relationship to my community. How could I better serve my community? How might it better serve me? What can I do to help make my neighborhood and town more livable for everyone? Once we have given these questions some considerable attention, we could meet, perhaps on Zoom, and start a dialogue. Together we can develop a common vision and a plan to implement it.

Finally, COVID-19 has given our country an extraordinary opportunity. We are quite aware of how divided our nation is. Yet, this crisis has brought people of all backgrounds, political persuasions, income levels and ethnicities together to fight this common enemy. Whether it’s medical professionals in hospitals, drivers delivering groceries or technicians ensuring our electricity stays on, people are risking their lives to provide care and support for all of us. When everyone works together, we are all better off. Can we carry this lesson forward to heal our country in the weeks and months ahead?

Our nation has numerous problems. It is not working well for many Americans. A great number of us don’t have good, if any, affordable healthcare. We know climate change is threatening to devastate our planet, but we are not doing much about it. Too many people in this country, especially children, go to bed hungry every night. In the wealthiest country on Earth, millions of us don’t make a living wage. Women and people of color are discriminated against and not treated as equal citizens. Alcohol and drug addiction run rampant across our nation, as does gun violence. Big money and huge corporations control government policies to the detriment of most Americans. And, the list goes on.

At this critical juncture in our history, we must not go back to the way things were before the pandemic crisis struck. We are learning that we can work in unison for the good of the country regardless of our differences. As we progress in conquering COVID-19, we must use this singular experience to inspire us. Together we can reshape our country into one that serves the common good, not just the interests of the well-connected and the very wealthy. World War II was a comparable national crisis that brought all Americans together to defeat a common enemy. Just like after that hard-fought victory, we must grab this opportunity to create a new vision of America and remake our country.

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: How Can Biden Win?

Now that Bernie Sanders has dropped out of the race for the Democratic nomination for president, what does Joe Biden have to do to unite his party and beat Trump in November?

It’s no secret that the Democratic Party is deeply divided. Biden has the moderate wing of the party solidly behind him. Not so Sanders’ progressive wing, which is not only very disappointed by Bernie’s withdrawal, but also angry that Sanders’ proposals have not been adopted by the Party. How can Biden win them over?

Biden has already taken the first step by acknowledging Sanders for “being a powerful voice for a fairer and more just America.” He commended Sanders for bringing important issues to “the center of the political debate. Income inequality, universal health care, climate change, free college, relieving students from the crushing debt of student loans.” And, he asserted that “we agree on the ultimate goal for these issues.”

Most importantly, Biden recognizes he needs Sanders’ supporters and has committed to reaching out to them as well as to Sanders himself. He concluded, “I understand the urgency of what it is we have to get done in this country. I hope you will join us. You are more than welcome. You’re needed.” (See https://www.axios.com/joe-biden-bernie-sanders-statement-8c1c7005-40e5-4b1a-93ed-8d0d973abd2f.html.)

Sanders’ biggest block of supporters were younger Americans under the age of 45. This week a number of youth organizations, including the Sunrise Movement and Justice Democrats, which altogether represent more than 10 million supporters and potential voters, wrote an open letter to Biden. They sent him a clear, comprehensive and cogent message:

  1. Young people are “poised to play a critical role (in) deciding the next President.” You need our enthusiastic support to unite the party and defeat Trump.
  2. A “return to normalcy” that you’ve called for won’t motivate our members to vote for you. Both major parties have “failed to create a robust social safety net for the vast majority of Americans….we grew up with endless war, skyrocketing inequality, crushing student loan debt, mass deportations, police murders of black Americans and mass incarceration, schools which have become killing fields, and knowing that the political leaders of today are choking the planet we will live on long after they are gone. We’ve spent our whole lives witnessing our political leaders prioritize the voices of wealthy lobbyists and big corporations over our needs. From this hardship, we’ve powered a resurgence of social movements demanding fundamental change. Why would we want a return to normalcy?”
  3. “We need a vision for the future, not a return to the past.…(I)n order to win up and down the ballot in November, the Democratic Party needs the energy and enthusiasm of our generation…Young people are issues-first voters….Exclusively anti-Trump messaging won’t be enough to lead any candidate to victory. We need you to champion the bold ideas that have galvanized our generation and given us hope in the political process.”

The letter then lists a series of very specific commitments the organizations want from Biden. Here are just a few of them:

  • Adoption of the Green New Deal
  • Expand DACA and other policies to protect people from deportation
  • Free undergraduate tuition for public colleges, universities, and vocational schools
  • An annual tax on the wealthiest 180,000 households
  • Adoption of strong anti-corruption reforms
  • Champion a voting system that works for all Americans
  • Get big money out of politics and make the passage of HR 1 a top priority
  • No current or former Wall Street executives or corporate lobbyists in your transition team, advisor roles, or cabinet

The youth organizations’ letter concludes that they “will spend more than $100 million …this election cycle. We…need help ensuring our efforts will be backed-up by a campaign that speaks to our generation. Our generation is the future of this country. If you aim to motivate, mobilize, and welcome us in, we will work tirelessly to align this nation with its highest ideals.” (See https://nextgenamerica.org/biden-letter/.)

Others already in Biden’s camp are also urging fundamental change, rather than a “return to normalcy.” Recently Jamie Dimon, CEO of the giant Wall Street firm, JP Morgan Chase, explained that our lack of preparation for the pandemic is part of a larger set of problems facing the country. In his firm’s annual letter to its shareholders, Dimon wrote:

“Our inner-city schools don’t graduate half of their students and don’t give our children an education that leads to a livelihood; our healthcare system is increasingly costly with many of our citizens lacking any access; and nutrition and personal health aren’t even being taught at many schools. Obesity has become a national scourge. We have a litigation and regulatory system that cripples small businesses with red tape and bureaucracy; ineffective infrastructure planning and investment; and huge waste and inefficiency at both the state and federal levels. We have failed to put proper immigration policies in place; our social safety nets are poorly designed; and the share of wages for the bottom 30% of Americans has effectively been going down….We need to acknowledge these problems and the damage they have done if we are ever going to fix them.”

Dimon hopes that “civility, humanity, empathy and the goal of improving America will break through” and that this crisis can bring people together to recognize “our shared responsibility, acting in a way that reflects the best of all of us.” (See https://finance.yahoo.com/news/jamie-dimon-on-covid-19-crisis-114330705.html.)

How far will Biden go in meeting the challenges that both wings of the Democratic Party know must be addressed?  Will he be bold enough in his response to bring the party together and win the election?

Contact Biden at https://go.joebiden.com/page/s/contact-us and let him know your thoughts about what he needs to do to unite the party and win in November.

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.