The Struggle for the Soul of America: Will Illusive Bipartisanship Cripple Our Democracy?

I feel like I’m living in two different worlds. Personally, I’ve gotten vaccinated, as have practically all my friends. The other night a group of us got together for dinner and reconnecting. Until then, we had been zooming with one another for over a year.

Last month my partner and I went to a public hot springs. Two weeks ago, we went out to dinner in a restaurant courtyard with another couple. Without masks! And yesterday, though masked, we were in a furniture store shopping for a new couch. After fifteen months of hibernation, our lives are finally getting back to almost normal. I’m feeling hopeful, optimistic.

At the same time, there’s a dark shadow hanging over our country. And it’s alarming. Not since the Civil War has our nation been so divided.[1] Whether the issue is forming a commission to investigate the attack on the Capitol,[2] protecting our right to vote,[3] or dealing with immigrants at our Mexican border,[4] Americans are at extreme odds with one another.

Some argue that the Democrats must forge ahead and pass legislation to resolve our pressing problems despite the opposition. Others, like Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.VA) and Kristen Sinema (D-Ariz.), contend that we must work in a bipartisan manner to truly solve these issues. But can we really bridge the huge schism in our nation or between the political parties? And, more immediately, do we have the time to reconcile our differences before our democracy is overrun by far-right extremists?

Events since last November’s election clearly indicate that we will not overcome the great divide in our nation any time soon. The Senate’s partisan failure to approve a bipartisan commission to investigate the attack on our Capitol is just the latest evidence of that. With Sen. Mitch McConnell admitting he is hellbent on obstructing the Biden presidency,[5] (just as he was with the Obama administration), it’s hard to imagine any real progress toward solving the nation’s problems in a bipartisan fashion.

The truth is our deepest divisions are political, rather than based in policy issues. A great majority of Americans – Republicans, Democrats, and Independents – support rebuilding our infrastructure, raising the minimum wage, providing affordable healthcare for all and more.

Biden’s best path forward may be to promote bipartisanship for a little while longer, if for no other reason than to demonstrate its futility. Manchin and Sinema apparently need more time to realize that the Republicans will never work with the Democrats on a true economic and social recovery, especially one that helps most Americans. They believe it’s not in their political interest. Just like their opposition to the bipartisan commission, Republicans are very willing to put politics above country.

The Senate Republicans’ filibuster of the bipartisan commission hopefully has helped Manchin and Sinema to see the light. Biden did learn how obstructionist the Republicans can be as VP under Obama with the Garland nomination to the Supreme Court and Obamacare, etc. So, he’s not going to be strung along forever.

Before the August recess, Biden will go for what he believes needs to be done regarding infrastructure, etc. that he can do through Reconciliation. By then, hopefully, Manchin and Sinema will understand bipartisanship is impossible with McConnell and his cohorts. Regarding voting rights and other bills that can’t be passed by Reconciliation, it will depend on these two Democrats agreeing to break the filibuster. At that point, they must understand that their continued support of the filibuster may well be a death knell for democracy. Millions of Americans’ right to vote will be in serious jeopardy due to a flood of Republican measures to suppress the vote.

Meanwhile, it’s up to all of us to keep the pressure on Biden, Manchin, Sinema and the rest of the Democrats to do what’s right and pass HR 1/S1, the For the People Act, and the John Lewis voting rights bill. Once again, our democracy is being put to the test and it’s on us to save it.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

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

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


[1] https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/19/politics/trump-divided-america-civil-war/index.html

[2] https://thehill.com/homenews/house/555147-poll-americans-split-on-jan-6-commission

[3] https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/americans-oppose-many-voting-restrictions-but-not-voter-id-laws/

[4] https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2021/05/03/most-americans-are-critical-of-governments-handling-of-situation-at-u-s-mexico-border/

[5] https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/joe-biden/mcconnell-says-he-s-100-percent-focused-stopping-biden-s-n1266443

The Struggle for the Soul of America: A Time of Hope and Fear

We are living on the brink. On the one hand, the Electoral College will vote to elect Joe Biden as our next president on Monday.[1] Trump’s days in the White House are clearly numbered. There’s light at the end of the tunnel.

In addition, an advisory panel to the US Food and Drug Administration voted to recommend emergency use authorization of Pfizer’s COVID vaccine on Thursday. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to give final approval to the vaccine on Sunday.[2] Help is on the way.

On the other hand, it could be well into next year before most Americans receive a vaccination. There may not be enough vaccine for everyone for quite some time.[3] Even then, a substantial part of the population may not agree to be vaccinated given the conspiracy theories and claims the pandemic is a hoax.[4]

Meanwhile, Mitch McConnell and the Republican Senate are much more interested in shielding corporations from liability for negligently failing to protect their workers from contracting COVID than providing critical aid to cities and states trying to maintain essential services for their weary citizens.[5]

At the same time, 17 red states are supporting Texas’s Motion to File a Complaint in the Supreme Court to overturn Biden’s victories in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. One hundred and twenty-five sycophant Republican members of Congress are backing the quixotic lawsuit which seeks to invalidate millions of votes in four battleground states which gave Biden the presidency.[6] Their crazed support for an unhinged president is destroying our democracy.

While the court challenge has practically no chance of succeeding, it does foment unrest among a great number of the Trump base. It also adds fuel to the Republican effort to undermine the Biden presidency. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) recently asserted that the Senate will not consider confirming any Biden nominations as long as the election results are in dispute.[7] This does not bode well for efforts to heal our nation or a successful Biden presidency.

And, if that weren’t more than enough headwinds for the new administration to overcome, Biden seems to be getting in his own way. He fully understands how critical winning the upcoming Georgia Senate runoffs is to accomplishing his legislative agenda. Still, Biden chose former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, a white male who served as Obama’s Secretary of Agriculture, to head the Agriculture Department over Rep. Marcia Fudge, a black woman with 12 years on the House agriculture committee.

Biden picked Vilsack despite the fact that he “owes a massive debt to top Black Democrats who were also pushing for Fudge — above all House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, whose well-timed endorsement very likely gave Biden the nomination.”[8] Naming Fudge would have boosted Stacey Abrams and other Democrats’ drive to achieve the huge black turnout Democrats need to prevail in the Georgia election.

Yet, all is not lost. Biden can accomplish a great deal even without the Democrats controlling the Senate, if he acts boldly with his power of executive orders. Lincoln freed the slaves with the Emancipation Proclamation. Franklin Roosevelt signed over 3,700 executive orders to help steer the country out of the Great Depression and mobilize the nation during World War II.[9]

Trump used executive orders to implement much of his agenda. Biden must, too. He can utilize these orders to marshal plans for expediting the distribution of the COVID vaccine, tackling climate change and getting the economy rolling again, among other priorities.

Our job is to keep the pressure on Biden to make sure that he employs his presidential powers fearlessly.  Let’s get to work.

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.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2020/12/11/electoral-college-meeting-monday-hand-trump-loss-he-wont-accept/3807305001/

[2] https://www.cnn.com/world/live-news/coronavirus-pandemic-12-10-20-intl/h_4e54be4adce1922379b0d330a062361d

[3] https://www.cnn.com/2020/12/09/health/covid-vaccine-distribution-states/index.html; https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/12/next-six-months-will-be-vaccine-purgatory/617371/

[4] https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/12/10/vaccine-biden-trump-leadership-challenge/

[5] https://time.com/5920242/mcconnell-torpedoes-covid-19-relief-deal/

[6] https://www.axios.com/house-republicans-texas-lawsuit-election-a33e2081-89fa-442a-b1f6-eb1fcf9f4b16.html

[7] https://news.yahoo.com/ted-cruz-says-senate-likely-145300566.html

[8] https://www.yahoo.com/news/joe-bidens-agriculture-appointment-slap-104002491.html

[9]https://www.voanews.com/2020-usa-votes/trump-biden-will-embrace-executive-orders

Give Thanks for State Republican Leaders Who are Resisting Trump’s Efforts to Overturn the Election

Congressional Republicans in Washington are trapped. While privately many of them think Trump should concede he lost the election, they fear that crossing Trump and his base by publicly stating their beliefs will damage their political futures.[1] Such statements could also hurt Republican chances of maintaining control of the Senate by dampening GOP turnout in the January 5th Georgia Senate runoff election.

Most Republicans don’t seem to have a problem with President Trump’s hell-bent efforts to undermine our democracy in order to stay in power.[2] In fact, some are actively assisting him while others are just silently acquiescing to his reckless disregard for the will of the voters.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, for instance, has taken the extremely unorthodox, and most likely unethical, step of calling election officials in several states regarding the legitimacy of certain ballots. Graham, a Trump ally, asked Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, “whether he had the power to throw out all mail ballots in counties where there were relatively high rates of rejection of mail ballots because their signatures did not match voters’ signatures on file.”[3]

Fortunately, Raffensperger resisted Graham’s overtures to manipulate the Georgia election results. While Graham denied it, Raffensperger felt the senator was pressuring him to throw out legally cast ballots.[4] After all, what legitimate business does a senator from another state have in scrutinizing the Georgia vote tally?

Meanwhile, Trump summoned Michigan Republican legislative leaders to Washington on Friday in an attempt to pressure them to nullify that state’s electoral college votes for President-elect Joe Biden. After the White House meeting, the GOP lawmakers who met with Trump “committed to letting that certification process play out and undercut the false claims of nationwide voter fraud that Trump and his allies have continued to peddle.” They stated that “we will follow the law and follow the normal process regarding Michigan’s electors, just as we have said throughout this election.”[5]

On Sunday, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, denounced Trump’s actions: “A pressure campaign on state legislators to influence the electoral outcome is not only unprecedented but inconsistent with our democratic process. It is time to begin the full and formal transition process.”[6]

Republican legislative leaders in other critical swing states Biden won are sticking by their election results as well. In addition to Michigan and Georgia, GOP lawmakers in Arizona, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have asserted that they would not intervene in the selection of electors to try to flip their state’s electoral votes to Trump. “Such a move would violate state law and a vote of the people, several noted.”[7]

While Mitch McConnell and most of his Republican Senate colleagues have supported Trump’s efforts to undermine the election, courts across the country in more than twenty cases have repeatedly found no merit in Trump’s challenges to the election. So, as Thanksgiving approaches, we can give thanks for the honest Republican state officials who have resisted pressure to interfere with the election results in their states.

Despite everything that Trump and his cohorts have done to subvert the election outcome, we can breathe a sigh of relief with the knowledge that he has failed. On January 20, 2021, Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States.

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.cbc.ca/news/world/trump-threats-cost-1.5810848

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/19/opinion/trump-election-lies.html

[3] https://www.vox.com/2020/11/18/21571684/lindsey-graham-brad-raffensperger-georgia-ballots

[4] https://www.politico.com/news/2020/11/16/lindsey-graham-georgia-2020-election-436910

[5] https://www.cnn.com/2020/11/20/politics/michigan-house-speaker-will-meet-trump/index.html

[6] https://www.adn.com/politics/2020/11/22/murkowski-calls-for-presidential-transition-to-begin-saying-trumps-attempts-to-influence-electoral-results-are-unprecedented/

[7] https://apnews.com/article/election-2020-joe-biden-donald-trump-legislature-pennsylvania-b199b2debc87fbb20612a48835bc0dba

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Biden Wins Presidency In an Historic Turning Point in America

Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States. Around the country, people are rejoicing while many Americans took a sigh of relief. The nasty, racist, egotistical, wannabe autocrat, Donald Trump, will no longer have his knee on our collective necks.

Yes, Trump will continue biting and scratching for a second term. But, Biden captured Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes giving him more than the required 270 to be elected president. He also won Nevada, and probably Georgia and Arizona as well.[1] The ugly Trump era is over.

While Trump is still looking to the judiciary to save his presidency, the courts have not been inclined to provide any support for Trump’s empty claims of fraud.[2] Both conservative and liberal legal experts agree that the Supreme Court is unlikely to give Trump the relief he seeks.[3]

On top of that, Republican support for Trump’s desperate efforts to retain the White House is finally beginning to crack. Republican state legislative leaders in Pennsylvania have confirmed that they will not reject the voters’ choice and select pro-Trump electors for the Electoral College.[4] Hopefully, other states Republican leaders will follow suit. In fact, even staunch conservative and Fox News host Laura Ingraham has called for Trump to accept defeat gracefully.[5]

The bad news is Trump has 10 weeks to wreak havoc on the nation before Biden is sworn in as our next president. Last Saturday he defiantly declared that he will fight on:

“…The simple fact is this election is far from over. Joe Biden has not been certified as the winner of any states…Beginning Monday, our campaign will start prosecuting our case in court to ensure election laws are fully upheld and the rightful winner is seated. The American People are entitled to an honest election: that means counting all legal ballots, and not counting any illegal ballots…”[6]

What this first and foremost tells us is the biggest con artist in American history is still at it. If anyone was responsible for corrupting this election, it was the dishonest Donald Trump. His constant outlandish lies are what made the election as close as it was. Fortunately, the majority of American voters have had enough and rejected Trump and his corrupt ways.

We have reached an historic turning point in our country. The nation is rising out of the greedy muck of the last four years. Now the hard work of fixing our democratic republic begins.

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.theguardian.com/us-news/video/2020/nov/07/fox-news-projects-joe-biden-will-win-2020-presidential-election-video.

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/06/us/politics/trump-election-voter-fraud.html.

[3] https://www.npr.org/2020/11/07/932214005/will-this-election-be-a-replay-of-bush-v-gore-at-the-supreme-court-not-likely.

[4] https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8921805/GOP-leader-Pennsylvania-state-senate-slaps-demand-appoint-pro-Trump-electors.html.

[5] https://www.yahoo.com/news/fox-news-host-laura-ingraham-104518375.html.

[6] https://www.republicworld.com/world-news/us-news/conceding-trumps-first-response-after-joe-biden-is-declared-2020-us-election-winner-out.html.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

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

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

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

[2] Ibid.

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

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

The Struggle for the Soul of America: In-Person, Early Voting Best Way to Defeat Trump

While mail-in voting may be the safest way to protect yourself from the coronavirus, it may be the riskiest way to protect the country from four more years of a Trump presidency.

Most predictions suggest Trump will be leading on election night since Republicans are much more likely to vote in-person and have their votes counted that night. Forty-eight percent of Democratic voters indicate they will vote by mail. But only twenty-three percent of Republicans intend to mail-in their November election ballots.[1]

Once all the mail-in ballots are counted in the subsequent weeks, Trump could very well lose the election since the great majority of those ballots will presumably be from Biden supporters. But, what if all the millions of mail-in ballots are not counted by the cut-off date?

This year the deadline for all votes to be tallied is December 14, when the Electoral College will meet and determine each candidate’s total number of electoral votes. We all know that Trump will do just about anything to win re-election. That includes demanding recounts and likely challenging the legitimacy, perhaps, of each mail-in ballot, one-by-one, delaying the completion of recounts indefinitely.[2] Consequently, some states may not be able to certify their election results by the deadline.

In 2000, the Supreme Court decided the election before all the ballots were counted. If recounts are delayed by Trump’s legal challenges and the Electoral College does not produce a certified majority of 270 electoral votes in time, the election is determined by the House of Representatives. Under the 12th Amendment to the Constitution, in such circumstances each state casts one vote for president and vice president. Since the Republicans control a majority of the state delegations in the House, Trump could be re-elected by the House of Representatives.[3]

The best way to avoid this disastrous outcome is for as many Biden supporters as possible to vote early in-person, not by mail. The Democrats need to be winning or at least be very close to a majority on election night, which will make it more difficult, if not impossible, for Trump to claim victory. Then the completion of recounts will be important to both campaigns, and delays and interference would be less likely.

Early, in-person voting is a lot safer than voting on election day. Since there are many different dates when one can vote early, lines will be much shorter. I’ve voted early numerous times and have rarely experienced any lines. Thus, if you are wearing a mask and social distancing, early voting can be quite safe.

Early, in-person voting can save our democracy. The earlier the better. And, be sure to tell your friends and family: Vote early, in-person!

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.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2020/08/18/election-2020-biden-voters-twice-likely-vote-mail-survey-finds/3394795001/

[2] https://www.yahoo.com/news/trump-could-huge-number-mailed-154542232.html

[3] https://www.yahoo.com/news/trump-could-huge-number-mailed-154542232.html

America’s Dying Democracy: Can We Revive It?

The Twenty-first Century has not been good to America’s democracy. However, the recent upset victory by Doug Jones in Alabama and the results of Virginia’s election last month indicate that a democratic resurgence may be brewing. Still, American democracy is now on life support. How did this happen?

            The 2000 Election: It all started when the U.S. Supreme Court halted the full recount of the people’s ballots in Florida and declared George W. Bush president in December 2000.1 With a five-to-four decision, you could effectively argue that one Supreme Court justice’s vote has determined the course of American history ever since. Despite Al Gore’s winning the national popular vote by more than a half million,2 the Electoral College with the Court’s help put Bush in the White House: Hardly a democratic outcome.

            The Iraq War: Then, in March 2003, President Bush took the country to war against Iraq. Even though our Constitution gives Congress the sole power to declare war, the President usurped its authority in a futile attempt by the administration to gain control over Iraq’s vast oil reserves.3 This autocratic decision to invade Iraq enhanced the power of the presidency and diminished the authority of Congress: another blow to our democracy.

            The 2004 Election: Next came Bush’s re-election in 2004. Again, there were serious questions about the electoral process, especially in Ohio. The National Election Data Archive (NEDA) conducted an analysis of the 2004 Ohio presidential election, which provided convincing evidence of an outcome-altering vote miscount4 that handed Bush his margin of victory. America’s democracy was being shredded without any real resistance from the people.

            The Wall Street Bailout: While the election of Barack Obama in 2008 appeared to provide renewed hope for democracy, the Democrats and the new president soon demonstrated their own disregard for the needs and desires of the people. The bailout of the big Wall Street banks, which did practically nothing for the multitude of average Americans who had lost their homes and/or jobs during the Great Recession, as well as the Obama administration’s refusal to prosecute those responsible for the country’s financial collapse, indicated Obama’s willingness to please his Big Money donors at the expense of many of the people who voted him into office. Despite controlling both houses of Congress, Obama and the Democrats failed to seize the opportunity to halt the country’s march to plutocracy. Putting the bankers who had committed massive fraud in jail may well have curbed Big Money’s appetite for corrupting influence and overreach. Moreover, it would have given Americans more faith in our government and less reason to turn to a faux populist like Donald Trump. Once again, the democratic process had failed the American people.

            The 2016 Election and the Trump Presidency: In 2016 Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump in the presidential election by almost 2.9 million votes.5 Nevertheless, Trump became president by winning the Electoral College vote. Since then, we have learned that Russia interfered in the election, and that the Trump campaign may have colluded with the Russians in order to win the election.6 In the eleven months of Trump’s presidency, he has attacked the press, the judiciary, religious groups, minorities, women and, most recently, the FBI. Anyone not actively supporting Trump automatically becomes an enemy of his government. This is what authoritarian leaders do to crush democratic values and gain more and more control.

            The Current Republican Tax Bill: This bill, which is about to become law, is the product of America’s advance toward autocratic rule. How else can you explain the fact that only 32 percent of Americans support the legislation; Trump’s favorable rating is only 34 percent; and the Republican Party’s favorable rating is just 24 percent?8 Congressional Republicans have pushed through this highly unpopular bill without any public participation, not a single hearing, nor any Democratic input. In fact, they are the minority party, having won their Congressional majority through their gerrymandering of districts to win seats they would not have otherwise been able to capture. As we have noted, Trump is also a minority president, having lost the popular vote by close to 3 million. Yet, he and his Republican allies are ruling with an iron fist. American fascism is on the rise.

            Saving Our Democracy: Unfortunately, the Democratic Party, with only a 36 percent favorability rating and its own leanings toward plutocracy, has been unable to restrain the Republicans’ thirst for autocracy. The only force capable of reversing this authoritarian wave is the American people. The #Me Too movement, along with the recent Alabama and Virginia elections, provide some glimmer of hope. The question is will the American people come together and create the massive, grassroots movement required to break this autocratic thrust and revive our democracy.

            Numerous organizations are working to rebuild our democracy. Common Cause, Move To Amend, American Promise, Take Back Our Republic and Represent.us are just a few of the national groups leading the way. Here in New Mexico, Indivisible, New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics and Retake Our Democracy, among others, are engaged in this critical work. The more we are all actively participating in this effort, the greater the chances of its success. Watching and worrying as our democracy disintegrates won’t help. You can do something. Get involved before it’s too late.

 

1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bush_v._Gore.

2 http://www.leinsdorf.com/Gore%20Wins%20the%20Election%20by%20538.htm

3 http://www.cnn.com/2013/03/19/opinion/iraq-war-oil-juhasz/index.html.

4 http://www.electionmathematics.org/em-exitpolls/OH/2004Election/Ohio-Exit-Polls-2004.pdf.

5 http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/21/politics/donald-trump-hillary-clinton-popular-vote-final-count/index.html.

6 https://globalsecurityreview.com/russia-trump-2016-u-s-election/.

7 https://www.salon.com/2017/12/11/the-republican-tax-plan-is-the-most-unpopular-bill-in-30-years/.

8 https://www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/blogs/right-turn/wp/2017/12/11/even-without-roy-moore-the-gop-is-in-a-downward-spiral/

What Do We Do Now?

If ever there was a time to stand up and actively work for what we want our nation to be, that time is now. Our country desperately needs all of us. The future of our democracy rides on We, the people.

            Today all Americans who believe Donald Trump is destroying the fabric of our American values must come together and create the strongest possible response to Trump’s white supremacist threat to our nation. Most Americans are upset, if not outraged, with Trump’s reaction to the neo-Nazis’ violent rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, a little more than a week ago. In fact, Gary Cohn, Trump’s top economic advisor, was reported to be “disgusted.” Business leaders, Republican and Democratic lawmakers, even conservative British Prime Minister Theresa May criticized Trump’s failure to condemn the neo-Nazi demonstration.

            Still, no Republican on Capitol Hill has called for Trump’s resignation or impeachment despite his multiple transgressions against the American people and our Constitution, since he became president. More than 40 percent of the public now thinks Trump should be impeached, and he is losing support among his base as well. Moreover, a recent poll (taken just prior to Trump’s response to the violent demonstration) indicated only 29 percent of whites without a college degree, a key element of his base, “approve strongly of how Trump is handling his job.” While 13 percent also said they somewhat approve, 43 percent said they strongly disapproved, and 6 percent said they somewhat disapproved…”*

            Trump’s approval rating is now just 10 points higher than Richard Nixon’s when Nixon resigned after his party abandoned him amid the Watergate investigation. Nevertheless, without Republican lawmakers calling for his resignation or impeachment, Trump will remain in the White House.

            Meanwhile, what do the rest of us, who believe Trump is utterly unfit to be president, do? Clearly, it’s time for a coordinated, massive response for the good of our Republic. What might that look like?

            First, we must make our voices heard loud and clear, demanding that Congress initiate a formal investigation into whether to impeach the president. We must mount a huge lobbying effort, including letters to the editor, petition drives, demonstrations and sit-ins at Congressional offices at home and in DC. Congressional representatives, Republican and Democrat alike, must be barraged with calls for Trump’s impeachment. They must understand that if they do not actively support impeaching Trump, their constituents will vote for someone who will in the 2018 elections. The more they hear from us, the more likely they are to open an investigation.**

            Second, we must initiate community dialogues with our neighbors about the present state of our country, Trump’s lack of moral leadership, his apparent obstruction of the special prosecutor’s investigation, his misuse of the office of the Presidency for personal gain, and his responsibility for the growing divisiveness in our nation. We must build a very broad-based, mass movement to remove Trump from office.

            Third, we must call out Trump’s racist supporters, whether they are in the streets, the media or the halls of Congress. Americans need to know who is enabling Trump and the white supremacists’ movement that violates all the principles our country has long stood for. We have to isolate their movement, do whatever we can to eliminate its influence in our country, and develop safeguards against this ever happening again.

            Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we must build a government of, by and for the people. Our mass movement must address the needs of all Americans, including those whom Trump conned with his fake populism. We each must look into our hearts and answer the call to revive democracy in America.

            How do you answer the call? Here are some local organizations that you can contact to get involved in this movement:

Indivisible (https://indivisiblesantafe.org/); New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics (http://nmmop.org/); Retake Our Democracy (https://retakeourdemocracy.org/); and Chainbreaker Collective (https://chainbreaker.org/).

* See http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/first-read/poll-40-percent-now-support-trump-impeachment-n793251 and http://www.salon.com/2017/08/02/new-poll-reveals-donald-trump-is-losing-support-from-a-key-part-of-his-base/.

** See https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2017/07/12/a-house-democrat-has-filed-the-first-articles-of-impeachment-against-president-trump/.

How To Overcome the Power of Big Money

In a recent blog, “Can the American People Overcome the Power of Big Money?,” I wrote “the common denominator that prevents the enactment of real, positive solutions to practically every issue Americans face is the power of Big Money.” After exploring the problem, I proposed that a massive, grassroots Democracy movement was the only viable way we, the people could succeed in reviving our democracy.

            Throughout the history of the United States, time and again the American people have come together to advance social justice. From the Abolitionists and Women’s Suffrage movements to the Civil Rights, LBGTQ and other people’s movements, we have beaten great odds and overwhelmed the status quo. Now we are, once again, called to do just that.

            What might a Democracy movement look like and what would be its mission and goals? First, to be effective, such a movement must include a broad range of the political spectrum. Without far-reaching support, this movement will not have the necessary political weight to achieve the systemic, democratic reforms required to establish a truly just society. Therefore, the movement must be non-partisan and involve Republicans and Democrats; conservatives, moderates and liberals; Independents, Libertarians and progressives.

            Second, the movement must be grassroots and give people reason to believe their involvement will be beneficial to their lives. Moreover, the movement needs to include a vast majority of the population from all sections of the country. People must feel that they have a stake in such a movement. Although a Democracy movement may seem irrelevant to people’s everyday lives, illustrating how Big Money’s grip on government adversely affects average Americans can persuade them to get involved. People need to feel personally linked to the movement’s purpose as well as grasp the value of its potential benefits for themselves and others. The more deeply connected people are to a movement’s values and goals, the more likely they are to become actively involved.

            And, third, in order to build massive and inclusive backing, a Democracy movement needs a clear, powerful and convincing message that resonates with most Americans. That message might go something like this:

Big Money and Corporate America control our government. They buy politicians’ loyalty and unduly influence them with huge campaign contributions and very substantial lobbying efforts. We, the American people, are the big losers in this legally corrupt system. We support these politicians by volunteering in their campaigns, voting for them and paying their salaries with our hard-earned tax dollars. Yet, they repeatedly pass legislation (e.g., huge subsidies for the oil industry and bailouts for Wall Street banks), which favors Big Money and Corporate America at our great expense. The truth is our government does the bidding of Big Money while it very often disregards the common good and the wellbeing of most Americans. In fact, the United States has become a plutocracy, a nation ruled by and for the benefit of the very wealthy. In order to overcome the power of Big Money, Americans of all political persuasion must join together and build a nationwide, non-partisan, grassroots movement to revive our democracy.

The mission of a Democracy movement would be to remove the corrupting influence of money in politics and make the government work for all the people of the United States. To accomplish this mission, the movement would work to achieve at least the following goals:

  1. Establish mandatory public financing of all congressional and presidential elections. Until we have a level playing field for all candidates who meet the qualifications to run for any particular office, we will not be able to eliminate the undue influence of Big Money.

  2. Enact a constitutional amendment to reverse the Supreme Court’s Buckley v. Valeo, Citizens United, and McCutcheon v. FEC decisions finding that money is speech, corporations are people, and restrictions on campaign contributions violate the freedom of speech. As long as these rulings stand, we will not be able to control the overriding power of Big Money.

  3. Reform and strictly regulate lobbying so that all Americans have equal access to their elected officials regardless of their income, corporate position, or labor affiliation. For the voices and opinions of all Americans to be heard, we must have equal access to our elected officials.

  4. Eliminate the gerrymandering of congressional districts so that each state’s delegation to the House of Representatives is proportionate to the votes each party receives in that state’s elections for Congress. In order for the people of any state to be fairly represented in Congress, as well as in their state legislatures, districts must be fairly drawn by independent commissions without favoring one political party over another.

  5. Enact a constitutional amendment to eliminate the Electoral College so that every citizen’s vote for president carries the same weight and the president is elected solely on the basis of the national popular vote. Since the president represents all the people, the weight of a person’s vote should be the same regardless of where he or she may live.

  6. Establish a national Bill of Voters’ Rights guaranteeing all citizens of the United States an equal opportunity to vote and eliminating restrictive voter ID requirements and other efforts obstructing people’s right to vote. In a democracy all citizens’ right to vote should be guaranteed and protected.

While these are fundamental changes to our political structure that will be very difficult to establish, strong, bold actions are required to fix our broken system and put control of our government in the hands of the people. Half measures will not do. Consequently, only a massive, non-partisan, grassroots movement will have the ability to overcome the power of Big Money and revive our democracy.

See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com for how you can help build a Democracy movement.

 

 

Where Are Our American Patriots?

The entire U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Vladimir Putin and the Russian government interfered in our election to support Donald Trump’s candidacy for president. According to the L.A. Times and the Washington Post, FBI Director James B. Comey and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. are in agreement with a CIA assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election in part to help Donald Trump win the presidency.

While some officials are calling for a thorough bipartisan investigation into this matter, no one seems to think the confirmation of Trump’s election victory by the Electoral College should be delayed until the investigation is completed. Of course, once Trump is sworn in, it will be too late to change the election’s outcome. At that point, Trump will control the government, and likely do, with the help of his Republican allies, whatever it takes to derail and discredit any investigation.

Where are American patriots like Sen. John McCain and Pres. Obama when the American people need them the most? Why aren’t they stepping up and calling for a halt to this impending national catastrophe? Why isn’t Pres. Obama laying out the facts discovered by the intelligence community to the American people, so we can determine what action we believe is necessary to save our democracy?

We need Republican senators McCain and Lindsey Graham along with Minority leaders Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi to immediately and jointly file for a writ of mandamus before the U.S. Supreme Court ordering the Electoral College not to convene until an independent, non-partisan commission determines whether the outcome of the presidential election was substantially affected by the Russian meddling. Every patriotic American citizen should be urging their representatives to support this effort.

Republican leaders like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are asking why did the Democrats and the intelligence community wait until after the election to raise the issue of Russian interference. Unlike Republican senators McCain and Graham, McConnell wants to keep any investigation under the partisan control of the Republican Senate. McCain and Graham along with leading Democratic senators Schumer and Jack Reed, on the other hand, are calling for an independent, non-partisan investigation outside of Senate control.

Unfortunately, McConnell cannot be trusted to do the right thing. Last September Sen. McConnell actively worked to suppress the information that the Russians were hacking into our election process. At a meeting with Congressional leaders where Pres. Obama attempted to get bipartisan support for exposing Russia’s interference, McConnell threatened to accuse the White House of playing partisan politics if Obama released the information.

At the same time, the Democratic Party seems to be asleep at the wheel. Where is the outrage? Why haven’t Pres. Obama, Rep. Pelosi, Sen. Schumer and others demanded the Electoral College be stopped from convening until this matter is resolved. Once again, the Democrats are demonstrating they have no backbone. Just think what the Republicans would be doing if the situation were reversed. I have no doubt that they would be doing anything and everything to overturn the election.

The bottom line: we, the people must fight in any way we can for our democracy, or we will surely lose it. And, right now we are clearly losing it.

See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com for how to join the movement to revive our democracy.