The Struggle for the Soul of America: Are Democrats Asleep at The Wheel?

While Senate Democrats continue to haggle over Biden’s Build Back Better package, Republicans across the country are plotting to make America a permanent one-party, authoritarian state. As Zack Beauchamp, senior correspondent at Vox, observed:

“We are suffering from the same rot that has brought down democracy in other countries: a party that has decided it no longer wants to play by the rules and that would instead prefer to rule as authoritarians rather than share power with its opponents…The escalation in authoritarian behavior since January 6, from both national and state Republicans, shows that things are worse than even some pessimistic observers have feared…It’s happened elsewhere. It can happen here, too.[1]

Though Democrats are well aware of Republican efforts at one-party domination, they don’t seem to have the will or the courage to do anything about it. In state after state Republican-controlled legislatures are enacting laws suppressing voters’ rights, particularly those of communities of color,[2] and highly gerrymandering legislative districts in their favor.[3]

Most recently, Georgia’s General Assembly approved a redistricting map giving the GOP dominance in nine of its fourteen congressional districts even though the state narrowly went for Pres. Biden last year and elected two Democrats to the U.S. Senate in January.[4] Other GOP state legislatures are gerrymandering congressional districts to their extreme advantage as well. They include Ohio, Texas, Utah, Indiana, Alabama, and North Carolina.[5]

Senate Republicans have consistently filibustered Democrats’ efforts to protect voting rights and eliminate political gerrymandering.[6] Since Democratic Sens. Manchin and Sinema strongly oppose changing the filibuster rule to allow a simple majority to pass voting rights bills, Senate Democrats have only one path to passing voting rights legislation. That is, inserting the Freedom to Vote Act[7] and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act[8] into the Build Back Better reconciliation bill, which the Democrats can pass with a simple majority. A budget item to provide funding for the states to implement the provisions of these acts would also be needed to meet budget reconciliation bill requirements.[9]

Some senators might object to this approach arguing that the Senate parliamentarian could rule that these voting rights bills do not qualify for inclusion in a reconciliation bill. However, the parliamentarian’s ruling is only advisory and can be overruled by the presiding senator, which in this case would be Democratic Vice-president Kamala Harris.[10]

Our democracy is at stake. Time is running out to get voting rights protection implemented in all states before next year’s election. Democrats must include voting rights in the BBB and pass the Act before the end of the year. Urge your representative (https://clerk.house. gov/Members#MemberProfiles, 202-225-3121) and senators (https://www.senate.gov/ /senators/senators-contact.htm, 202-224-3121) to adopt the above course of action. The fairness of our elections as well as the future of our democracy hangs in the balance.

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.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2021/6/15/22522504/republicans-authoritarianism-trump-competitive

[2] https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2021/10/republicans-are-passing-rigged-maps-and-democrats-are-running-out-of-time-to-stop-it/

[3] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/25/us/politics/republican-redistricting-swing-states.html

[4] https://www.commondreams.org/news/2021/11/22/total-asymmetric-warfare-georgia-gop-redraws-political-map-us-senate-dems-do-nothing; https://www.cnn.com/election/2020/results/state/georgia/president

[5] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/15/us/politics/republicans-2022-redistricting-maps.html

[6] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/nov/03/senate-republicans-voting-rights-bill-john-lewis

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

[8]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Lewis_Voting_Rights_Act#:~:text=The%20John%20Lewis%20Voting%20Rights,Holder%20and%20Brnovich%20v.

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

[10] https://www.wusa9.com/article/news/verify/verify-can-the-senate-overrule-the-parliamentarians-recommendation-could-immigration-legislation-make-the-reconciliation-bill-budget-dreamers-biden/65-008d1307-74bc-42c3-abcf-76865b30c6d3

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Trump’s Cult of Personality Still Rising

For some time now, I have thought the current conditions in the United States are fairly comparable to the 1930s in Germany. Some of you reading this, like millions of other Americans, probably believe that what occurred there could not happen here. Regardless of what you believe, I urge you to read Robert Kagan’s recent opinion piece[1] in the Washington Post and think again.

Kagan argues that in all likelihood Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee for president in 2024. And, as the future nominee, “Trump and his Republican allies are actively preparing to ensure his victory by whatever means necessary. Trump’s charges of fraud in the 2020 election are now primarily aimed at establishing the predicate to challenge future election results that do not go his way.” He concludes that a “Trump victory is likely to mean at least the temporary suspension of American democracy as we have known it.”[2]

Kagan is no raging left-wing radical. He is a co-founder of the neoconservative Project for the New American Century, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. During the 2016 presidential election, Kagan left the Republican Party due to the party’s nomination of Trump and endorsed the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton.

Like Hitler’s rise to power in the 1930s, Kagan sees Trump’s increasing grip on the Republican Party as a cult of personality: “…for millions of Americans, Trump himself is the response to their fears and resentments. This is a stronger bond between leader and followers than anything seen before in U.S. political movements.”[3]

Trump enjoys unquestioning loyalty from his followers. Kagan notes that “They believe the U.S. government and society have been captured by socialists, minority groups and sexual deviants. They see the Republican Party establishment as corrupt and weak — “losers,” to use Trump’s word…They view Trump as strong and defiant, willing to take on the establishment, Democrats, RINOs, liberal media, antifa, the Squad, Big Tech and the “Mitch McConnell Republicans.” His charismatic leadership has given millions of Americans a feeling of purpose and empowerment, a new sense of identity…Trump speaks without embarrassment on behalf of an aggrieved segment of Americans, not exclusively White, who feel they have been taking it on the chin for too long….”[4]

Perhaps most striking is the majority of the January 6th insurrectionists “were middle-class and middle-aged; 40 percent were business owners or white-collar workers. They came mostly from purple, not red, counties. Most Trump supporters are good parents, good neighbors and solid members of their communities.”[5]

Like 1930s Germans, most Americans have refused to take a fascist takeover of this country seriously enough to try to prevent it. Kagan explains “the political and intellectual establishments in both parties have been underestimating Trump since he emerged on the scene in 2015.”[6]

Many others claim they understand what’s going on, but there is nothing they can do about it. Tragically, they are frozen in their fear and complacency. While the majority of us oppose the Trump authoritarian movement, we are ignoring the horrible consequences it will reign over us if we fail to actively resist and overcome it.

Meanwhile, the Democrats ‘can’t see the forest for the trees.’ While they continue to quarrel amongst themselves over the size of the proposed $3.5 trillion Build Back Better budget,[7] their failure to deliver for the American people helps make Trump’s autocratic case that “I alone can fix it.”[8]

Democrats must come together and pass the Freedom to Vote Act as well. It protects all Americans against Republican voter suppression laws and expands voters’ rights. Americans must have clear evidence that the Democrats have their backs. Without the quick passage and implementation of these two bills Trump’s cult of personality may soon rival Hitler’s Nazi Movement.

We cannot allow this to happen. Get out in the streets. March on Washington. We must act now to save our democracy.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

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

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


[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/09/23/robert-kagan-constitutional-crisis/

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/23/us/politics/democrats-budget-infrastructure.html

[8] https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/07/trump-rnc-speech-alone-fix-it/492557/

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Where Will America’s Current State of Crisis Lead?

America is in crisis. From the ban on mandatory COVID masks and the ugly withdrawal from Afghanistan to the Supreme Court’s anti-abortion ruling and the attacks on our voting rights, the United States is anything but united. In fact, we are at a dangerous inflection point.

On the one hand, the country is confronted by a rising tide of fascism. Mark Green, the first public advocate for New York City and author (with Ralph Nader) of Wrecking America: How Trump’s Lawbreaking and Lies Betray All, recently wrote in the Washington Spectator, “If openly cheating to install permanent minority rule doesn’t spell out “fascism,” it’s hard to see what would.” Green explains:

Trump “closely followed the playbooks of Mussolini, Salazar, Putin, and Bolsonaro: propaganda packaged as reality, extreme nationalism, delegitimization of the media, erosion of public confidence in elections, glorification of the military, self-enrichment and nepotism, relentless lying and systematic corruption, incitement to violence, Nuremberg-like rallies, a creed-of-greed over the common good, admiration of fellow dictators, scapegoating immigrants, vilification of “the other,” and the provoking of constant crises that “I alone can fix.”[1]

While Trump lost the 2020 election, he and his extremist minions are not going away. The Center for the Analysis of the Radical Right (CARR) addresses the magnitude of the threat Trumpism poses:

“Even if Donald Trump disappears from the stage forever, this isn’t over. More than a hundred congressional leaders have contested a fair and democratic election with falsehoods and conspiracy theories…Fascism and conspiratorial thinking have seeped into the minds of millions of Americans. If we compare Mussolini’s March on Rome and Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch to Donald Trump’s Insurrection we should be reminded that the former examples were only the beginning of years of street violence. We can’t address this problem until we call it by its name: fascism.”[2]

On the other hand, President Biden and most Democrats are proposing a progressive agenda that would significantly improve the lives of most Americans. Their $3.5 trillion social infrastructure budget and the For the People Act mandating election reforms would create a more egalitarian America.[3]

While many Democrats are aware of the ominous threat presented by the radical right, they are not directly combatting it. Plus, Congressional Democrats can’t seem to come together to enact the policies and programs noted above that could effectively thwart the march to an authoritarian state.

As Green and CARR emphasize, we must acknowledge that what occurred in Germany and Italy in the 1930s is happening in our country today. Then, hopefully, we will be able to marshal the will and the resources to defeat American fascism before it is too late.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

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

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


[1] https://washingtonspectator.org/none-dare-call-it-fascism-why-not/

[2] https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/countering-radical-right/american-fascism/

[3] https://www.reuters.com/world/us/after-setback-us-house-democrats-near-deal-biden-agenda-2021-08-24/

The Struggle for the Soul of America:

Will the Craziness in the Republican Party Help Dems and

Principled Conservatives Save Our Democracy?

What’s coming out of the Republican Party these days is outrageous and, frankly, utterly depressing. How could anyone in his or her right mind suggest that the riot at the Capitol on January 6 looked like “a normal tourist visit”?

Yet, at a Congressional Oversight Committee hearing on Wednesday, Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) did just that. He claimed that “if you didn’t know the TV footage was a video from January the 6th, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.” He further stated that it was a “boldfaced lie” to call the storming of the Capitol by hundreds of Trump supporters an insurrection.[1]

In addition, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) argued that the Justice Department was “harassing peaceful patriots.” Gosar and his fellow Republicans chose to ignore the fact that the rioters sprayed officers with pepper and bear spray, and severely injured dozens of police officers.[2] These were the officers who were protecting them and the rest of Congress from a violent mob. One officer, Michael Fanone, whom the insurgents beat and shocked with a stun gun, called the riot “the most brutal, savage hand-to-hand combat of my entire life.”[3]

Later, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) set the record straight: “I was there. What happened was a violent effort to interfere with and prevent the constitutional order of installing a new president…As such, it was an insurrection against the Constitution that resulted in severe property damage, severe injuries and death.”[4]

On the same day as the Oversight hearing, Republicans ousted Rep. Liz Chaney (R-WY) from her leadership position in the House for telling the truth. Chaney had more than once publicly repudiated former Pres. Trump’s lies that the November election had been stolen through widespread fraud.[5]

It’s clear that the truth no longer matters to the vast majority of the Republican Party. Former chair of the Democratic National Committee Howard Dean believes “most politicians in the Republican Party are no longer Americans because they no longer believe in democracy.” In reaction to their ousting of Rep. Chaney, he asserted that GOP officials “essentially are neo-fascist…They fundamentally do not believe that another legitimate point of view exists other than theirs.”[6]

Fortunately, not all Republicans fall in that camp. In fact, some are ready to fight the Trump scourge that has overtaken their party. In a just released letter, more than 100 prominent Republicans threaten to break from the GOP and form a third party:

“[W]hen in our democratic republic, forces of conspiracy, division, and despotism arise, it is the patriotic duty of citizens to act collectively in defense of liberty and justice. We, therefore, declare our intent to catalyze an American renewal, and to either reimagine a party dedicated to our founding ideals or else hasten the creation of such an alternative.”[7]

Who knows what will come of this new Call for American Renewal effort? Certainly, it will attract some attention. Liz Chaney will make sure of that. Other disaffected Republicans, as well as some Independents, will surely join. But will they be in large enough numbers to change the course of the Republican Party? Or, perhaps, to start a viable third party?

In any event, the founding of a principled Republican alternative to Trumpism is a good sign. It weakens Trump’s hold on the GOP, while it reinforces the need for the political reforms Democrats seek. If so many life-long, true Republicans think Trump must go, maybe his brand will become less appealing to others as well. Some moderate Republicans may decide there’s no longer a place for them in their party and turn to the Democrats. At the same time, diehard Main Street, conservative Republicans might decide to join Chaney and the Call for American Renewal. No one knows how this will all turnout, but the future of our fragile democracy is certainly in the balance.

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.yahoo.com/entertainment/gop-lawmaker-claims-no-insurrection-193300761.html

[2] https://apnews.com/article/donald-trump-capitol-siege-riots-government-and-politics-a58c37305c9b4c9dcb04cd4fa2443a83

[3] https://www.yahoo.com/huffpost/mitt-romney-insurrection-capitol-182726223.html

[4] Ibid.

[5] https://www.wsj.com/articles/liz-cheney-set-to-lose-gop-leadership-post-11620819337

[6] https://www.huffpost.com/entry/howard-dean-republicans-not-americans_n_609cd245e4b03e1dd38599e7

[7] https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/100-republicans-sign-letter-threatening-form-party/story?id=77665734

The Struggle for the Soul of America: The Disgraced GOP and the Path Forward

In my last blog, I wrote that “the Republican Party will clearly be on trial” at Donald Trump’s impeachment hearing. With Saturday’s vote to acquit Trump, 43 Republican senators failed our democracy and the American people.

During the impeachment trial, the Democrats presented an overwhelmingly convincing case that Trump incited the insurrection against Congress. Earlier in the week, polls showed that 56% of the American people believed Trump should be found guilty, while only 44% thought he should be acquitted.[1] At the same time, however, 69% of Republicans indicated they were less likely to support a senator who votes to convict Trump.[2] That is why self-serving Republican senators voted to protect their re-election prospects rather than preserve American democracy.

On Friday, however, new evidence put that result in doubt. According to Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville, Trump knew in real time that Vice President Pence was in life-threatening danger from the mob attacking the Capitol. But Trump did nothing to protect his vice president or Congress because he was solely focused on halting the certification of the election.[3]

Then, it came to light that Republican House Minority Leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, called Trump while the rioters were trying to break into his office. McCarthy pleaded with Trump to call off the MAGA mob. Lawmakers later briefed by McCarthy indicated that Trump replied, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.” When Trump refused to intervene to stop the riot, McCarthy yelled at him, “Who the f—k do you think you’re talking to?”[4]

None of this mattered to those spineless 43 Republican senators. A great many of them actually believed Trump did incite the insurrection and probably would have voted to convict the former president in a secret ballot. Instead, they hung their vote on a technicality, thus condoning presidential treason in the final weeks in office. These senators claimed it was unconstitutional to try and convict a former president for impeachable offenses even though almost all legal scholars from across the political spectrum found it is constitutional.[5]

So, where does that leave our country today? One of our two major political parties is controlled by Trump loyalists. Representing approximately three-quarters of the Republican Party, they are “enamored with authoritarianism and devoted to one Big Lie after another.” Their party is “antithetical to our Constitution, to fidelity to truth and to a multiracial democracy.”[6]

As a result, the Republican Party is shrinking. In January, nearly 140,000 people in 25 states left the Party.[7] According to a recent Gallup poll, only 37% of Americans now approve of the GOP, down from 43% in November.[8] With the great majority of Senate Republicans voting to acquit Trump, the abandonment of the Party will only grow.

In fact, the anti-Trump wing of the Party is already laying the groundwork for possibly establishing a center-right, third party. Recently, over 120 Republicans met on Zoom “to discuss the breakaway party, including former elected Republicans and government officials who worked under both Bush administrations, Reagan’s administration and even Trump’s administration.” These Republicans are “unhappy with the party’s failure to stand up to Trump’s alleged attempts to undermine democracy.”[9]

Still, the authoritarian wing of the Republican Party has been building for many years. Right-wing Republicans have been gerrymandering Congressional districts, suppressing voters’ rights and using other anti-democratic tactics for decades.

We must strengthen our resolve to defeat this spreading neo-fascism before it is too late. We must demand that Congress pass HB 1, the For the People Act, to protect and expand voter access to the ballot box, reduce the influence of Big Money in politics and other anti-corruption measures to fortify our democracy.[10] Call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 to reach your senators and (202) 225-3121 for your House members.

At the same time, we must amend the Constitution to ensure that another outgoing president who commits impeachable offenses can be tried and held accountable even after he or she has left office.

Honest and open-minded Americans of all stripes, Democrats, Independents and Republicans, must stand up for our democratic values. We must rise above party, come together and protect our democracy.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

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

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


[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/09/us/politics/trump-polls-impeachment.html

[2] https://www.vox.com/2021/2/10/22276210/trump-impeachment-trial-poll

[3] https://nymag.com/intelligencer/article/tuberville-trump-knew-pence-evacuated-capitol-tweet.html

[4] https://www.yahoo.com/news/mccarthy-snapped-trump-refused-help-000326514.html

[5] https://www.politico.com/f/?id=00000177-2646-de27-a5f7-3fe714ac0000

[6] https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/02/12/stop-trying-save-gop-its-hopeless/

[7] https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/538199-nearly-140000-voters-left-gop-in-25-states-in-january

[8] https://news.gallup.com/poll/329561/gop-image-slides-giving-democrats-strong-advantage.aspx

[9] https://www.forbes.com/sites/roberthart/2021/02/11/report-more-than-120-republicans-in-talks-to-form-anti-trump-political-party/?sh=562b7b524b51

[10] https://legiscan.com/US/bill/HB1/2021

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: Never Give Up!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

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

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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/

America on Trial

We, the people, are being severely tested. While former FBI Director James Comey testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee about President Trump’s alleged obstruction of justice, and Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller investigates whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to affect the outcome of our 2016 elections, it is the American political system which is actually on trial. In these most difficult times, will we, the people, stand together, demand the complete truth and see that our Constitutional principles are upheld?

            Though a significant element on the left is up in arms, a great many Americans seem willing to let the government’s lengthy, investigative process take its course. At the same time, a sizable segment of the population is lost in despair or has given up on our broken political system altogether. Meanwhile, Trump and his plutocratic gang continue to plunder our national treasury, destroy our environmental protections and damage our international relations.

            So much is at stake now. If we care about our children’s future, our communities as well as the environment, then we must do whatever is in our power to overcome this tyranny of greed and self-interest, which Trump represents. While the United States has a mixed record, at best, in this regard, we cannot lose sight of all that is good in our nation, most importantly, the great many hard-working, generous and compassionate people who constitute the heart and soul of this country.

            Unfortunately, both the Democratic and Republican parties have proven unable or unwilling to meet this challenge. Our political leaders are too beholden to special interests and their corporate sponsors to overcome these dark forces and truly serve the best interests of our nation. Additionally, most Congressional Democrats fall into the camp of supporting the drawn-out investigative process. As usual, they prefer taking what they consider “the safe path.” In any event, as the minority party, the Democrats do not have the Congressional power to initiate impeachment proceedings against our corrupt President.

            The Republicans, on the other hand, are too fearful of Trump’s loyal base to put our country before their party. They would rather curry favor with their wealthy donors by giving them more tax relief, while standing by and watching as Trump destroys America’s reputation in the world and our relations with our allies. It seems Republicans have no shame as they continually acquiesce to Trump’s self-serving, corrupt dealings with Russian oligarchs and his demeaning of anyone or any institution that fails to go along with his unethical and arrogant behavior. The Republican Party has sold its soul to the devil of expedient power.

            So, what are we, the American people, to do? We can sit back, glued to our televisions, watch this political drama unfold, and hope for the best. Or, we can take matters into our own hands. To do that, however, we must build a diverse, nonpartisan, grassroots democracy movement capable of successfully challenging Trump and his corrupt practices. This movement would speak to the real needs of the people and provide inclusive, democratic alternatives to Trump’s authoritarian policies. Additionally, it would reach out to the millions of disaffected Americans who feel left behind by both parties.

            Fortunately, such a movement is beginning to emerge following the disenchantment of the 2016 election. Last weekend in Chicago, four thousand activists attended the People’s Summit. They focused on “seizing power into their own hands through a new wave of progressive candidates, as well as continuing to keep their people’s revolution alive through demonstrations and disruption on the streets.” (See https://www.commondreams.org/views/2017/06/12/peoples-summit-vows-transform-resistance-power.) As keynote speaker Senator Bernie Sanders exclaimed to the roaring crowd, “…when we stand together, there is nothing that can stop us.”

            Are you ready and willing to unite and meet the awesome challenge to restore our democracy?

 

 

“Fake News” and the Struggle for the Heart and Soul of America

If anyone had any doubts that the Trump administration is bringing fascism to our country, last Friday’s news should put an end to that uncertainty. In a strong-arm attempt to punish the media, the White House barred several major news outlets from attending the February 25 White House press briefing with Sean Spicer, the Press Secretary. The New York Times, the L. A. Times, USA TODAY, The New York Daily News and CNN were among the news media blocked from covering the press briefing.

This extraordinary, vindictive step by President Trump, which was probably Steve Bannon’s idea, is much more than the latest missile in the administration’s feud with the media. Rather, it is an effort to further Trump’s claim that the media, or at least that which he calls “fake news,” is the enemy of the American people. Of course, any news criticizing Trump automatically becomes “fake news” to his way of thinking. And, since a great deal of the news has been critical of him, Trump denies much of it as “fake.”

One of the tenets of totalitarian regimes is that the government has a monopoly on the truth. Labeling all dissenting views as “fake” is a deliberate strategy to discredit the media and destroy a vital protection against authoritarian rule. At the same time, the media becomes a whipping boy for Trump’s ardent supporters to rail against. It’s a means of diverting attention from issues that really matter, such as, did Trump collude with the Russians to steal the election. Or, is Trump violating the public trust by not releasing his tax returns and the Constitution by using the presidency for his private gain? Nevertheless, to his loyal followers these questions hardly matter. Trump has saved them from Hillary Clinton and the Establishment, and he will “make America great again.” To them, he can do no wrong.

Another tenet of totalitarian regimes is they target scapegoats to blame for the people’s hard times. Just like Hitler used the Jews as his scapegoat, Trump has targeted the “bad hombre” Mexicans and Muslim immigrants. These foreigners also become whipping boys for Trump’s ardent supports as they chant, “America First.” It’s all part of Trump and Bannon’s strategy to establish authoritarian control through a white national populist message.

Then today (February 27), the White House apparently was caught trying to ruin a reporter’s reputation, another tactic of totalitarian rulers, for writing a story about Press Sectary Spicer’s attempt to discover the source of leaks coming from the White House. POLITICO’s editor Carrie Budoff Brown “accused the White House of planting a story to smear (its reporter, Alex) Isenstadt, after they were pissed off with claims made in his original story.” As much as Trump condemns “fake news,” the White House seems fine with employing it as a weapon against a reporter they don’t like. And, that raises the question: who is the real purveyor of “fake news”? See http://bipartisanreport.com/2017/02/27/white-house-caught -trying-to-ruin-politicos- reputation-in-shadiest-way-report/.

I believe we ignore these clear signs of authoritarian rule at our peril. Trump and Bannon are laying the foundation for the United States to become a fascist state. The longer we try to deny this reality, the more likely they will succeed.

Consequently, it is up to each and every one of us: Are we going to stand by and allow Trump’s fascist regime to destroy our democratic way of life, the heart and soul of America? Or, are we going to come together as patriotic Americans, Republicans, Democrats and Independents; build a grassroots, mass movement to overcome this horrendous threat to democracy; and restore our right to self-governance?