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/

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An Open Letter To President-Elect Trump

Dear President-Elect Trump,

I hope that you have noticed the rising level of animosity and fear in our country since your election. Many of your supporters as well as your detractors are very upset. Ironically, I doubt it would have been much different had you lost, perhaps even worse.

Your supporters have threatened violence and call those who opposed your election “sore losers.” Your detractors are plotting how to resist and derail your presidency. While I must admit that I fall in the latter camp, my intent here, which I hope you will share, is to help reduce the tension in our nation.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has tracked over one thousand acts of bias intimidation and harassment targeting Muslims, blacks, Latinos, immigrants, and LGBTQ people since Election Day. (See https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch.) This state of affairs does not bode well for our country.

As the soon-to-be president of all Americans, you are in the best position to take constructive action to ease our national anxiety. Consequently, I respectfully urge you to consider taking the following steps:

1. In the spirit of the holidays, go on national television and express your good will toward all Americans. Tell them that you want to understand their anger and fear, but violence and intimidation will not be tolerated. Explain that you intend to be the President of all Americans.

2. Be a gracious winner and make an offer of reconciliation. Don’t just go to areas of the country that supported you. Reach out to Americans who opposed your candidacy. Show them that you are interested in their issues and want to address their concerns as well. Keep in mind that the majority of the electorate did not vote for you. Dialogue with Americans of all persuasions.

3. Expand your cabinet choices so that all Americans will feel represented in your administration. To date, your appointments appear to favor a small, elite segment of the population. You need to include people who can empathize with a much greater portion of the American people. More than one Republican served in President Obama’s cabinet. You can and should include Democrats in yours.

4. Make some policy proposals that demonstrate you really are listening to people with different viewpoints. Most Americans have nowhere near the wealth and privilege that you and those you’ve chosen for your cabinet have. You are their President too. It is your duty and responsibility to serve their needs as well. And, finally,…

5. Listen to your critics. You don’t have to agree with them, but they do have a right to their opinions. Remember the First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Belittling those who oppose you does not become the President of the United States. Being open to criticism is a positive trait that will make you a better president.

Clearly, these are difficult times for many Americans. If you heed these suggestions, I feel you will make it a bit easier for yourself as well as for the rest of us. May God bless America.

 

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.

Will Electors Vote Their Conscience?

     A Republican elector from Texas, Christopher Suprun, recently announced that he would not cast his electoral vote for Donald Trump on December 19. In a December 5 New York Times Op-Ed piece, Suprun persuasively argues that Trump is not qualified to be president and that he cannot in good conscience vote for Trump.

    In today’s political climate, how refreshing to find a political figure with a conscience. If the Republican Congress had acted in good faith during Barack Obama’s presidency and put their country first, many American jobs could have been saved from going overseas; our nation’s infrastructure would have been rebuilt; and American college students would have received needed relief from their burdensome loans, among numerous other actions that would have helped the people of this country. At the same time, if Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the leadership of the Democratic Party had acted in good conscience and not rigged the Democratic primaries, Bernie Sanders just might now be our President-elect. What a difference acting in good conscience can make.

     Suprun could be a role model for all the presidential electors. He feels compelled to “do the right thing for the good of the country” and reject Trump because he, Suprun, believes he “owe(s) no debt to a party. I owe a debt to my children to leave them a nation they can trust.”

     Among Suprun’s reasons for disqualifying Trump are the following:

(1) He drives a wedge between Americans. Trump does not encourage civil discourse, but chooses to stoke fear and create outrage.

(2) He engages in demagogy, and is not independent from foreign influence.

(3) He lacks the foreign policy experience and the demeanor needed to be commander in chief.

(4) More than 50 Republican former national security officials and foreign policy experts publicly declared Trump “would be a dangerous president.”

(5) He encouraged an illegal act by saying Russia should hack Hillary Clinton’s emails.

(6) He urged violence against protesters at his rallies during the campaign.

(7) He speaks of retribution against his critics.

(8) He has surrounded himself with advisers such as Stephen K. Bannon, who claims to be a Leninist and lauds villains and their thirst for power.

(9)  His pick for national security adviser, Gen. Michael T. Flynn, installed a secret internet connection in his Pentagon office despite rules to the contrary. And, finally,

(10)  He has played fast and loose with the law for years. He may have violated the Cuban embargo, and there are reports of improprieties involving his foundation and actions he took against minority tenants in New York. Trump still seems to think that pattern of behavior can continue.

     Suprun concludes that “Presidential electors have the legal right and a constitutional duty to vote their conscience.” By rejecting Trump, he intends to “defend (his) country and Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” If only more Republican electors had Mr. Suprun’s courage.

 

 

I’m back!

Hi! I’m back. I’m sorry that I’ve neglected my blog for the last 5 months or so. I was busy finishing, editing and preparing to publish my book, Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America: Working Together To Revive Our Democracy.

I’m happy to report that the book is going to the printer this week. The ebook should be on sale in the next few weeks and the paperback should be available the first or second week in December. At the same time, I’ve gotten my website, breakingbigmoneysgrip.com, up and running, though it still needs some finishing touches. Hopefully, they will all be done in the next couple of weeks as well.

So, why did I write Breaking Big Moneys Grip on America?

I wrote this book to focus attention on a very critical issue that Americans need to understand: the United States is on the brink of becoming a plutocracy run by and for the very rich. Our political system is broken, and we must fix it before we lose our representative democracy. Both as a nation and as individual Americans, we are in grave danger due to Big Money’s increasing control of our government. Here are just two examples of how Big Money’s control over our government has caused tremendous harm to our nation as well as to a great many Americans.

The Iraq War

When George W. Bush became president in 2001 the giant oil corporations led by oilman-turned-vice president Dick Cheney manipulated the country into believing that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction that posed an international security threat. While Ambassador Joe Wilson tried to alert us to the truth, Cheney’s Chief of Staff “Scooter” Libby lied and was later found guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice. Big oil’s extreme influence over our government resulted in the United States initiating the Iraq War to gain access to Iraq’s huge oil and gas reserves. In doing big oil’s bidding, our country spent close to $2 trillion of our tax dollars; sacrificed thousands of American lives as well as hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilian lives; and effectively bred more support for militant extremists.

The Great Recession of 2008

During the Great Recession of 2008, while our government bailed out the big banks that had been primarily responsible for the economic crash, it did not aid the millions of Americans who had lost their homes or jobs. Despite the fraudulent and unethical business practices that had caused such devastating hardship, the Obama administration never prosecuted any of the Wall Street executives who had been largely responsible for it. Since Democrats and Republicans alike receive huge campaign contributions from Wall Street, no one in Washington wanted to risk damaging those relations. Now Wall Street is aggressively lobbying for less government regulation with some success, which may well lead to another financial disaster.

A current example of Big Money’s control of our government which will also cause great harm to a majority of Americans is the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement. I will address that in my next blog, which will appear in the next couple of days. I will be blogging regularly from now on, at least 2-3x per week. So, stay tuned and pass the word on to your friends and others. More information about my book can be found at breakingbigmoneysgrip.com. Thanks! And hope you’ll join in the conversation.

STOP the TPP – The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement — and other secret deals

It turns out that the TPP is not the only secret trade agreement the Obama administration is pushing. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement, which would be the largest “free trade” deal in world history, is now being negotiated between the U.S. and E.U.

Obama seems to think that corporations and not democratically elected governments should control our economic future.  The TTIP contains an “investor-state dispute settlement” system (ISDS), which would provide a framework for corporations to sue governments over alleged lost profits and overrule national laws, courts, and democratic processes. Such corporate tribunals have become hallmarks of so-called “free trade” agreements, included in 3,000 such deals world-wide, such as the infamous North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).  These tribunals are an attempt to escape the jurisdiction of national courts and bypass the obligation of all states to ensure that all legal cases are tried before independent, public tribunals.

President Obama is currently pressing for passage of “Fast Track” legislation for the TPP and other trade deals that would allow the White House to ram through these secret deals currently under negotiation.  This certainly looks like another example of Obama’s close ties with Wall Street and Big Money winning out over the American people.  We, the people, need to get money out of politics so Obama and Congress stop working for their corporate sponsors and start working for the people and what’s in our best interests.

Labor, environmental, community, and human rights organizations around the world have mobilized for years against these and other such pacts, with organized opposition to the TTIP mounting on both sides of the Atlantic.  We need to stand up and make our voices heard.

Obama and TPP

I’ve been busy trying to finish my book, Breaking Big Money’s Grip.  Sorry, I’ve neglected this blog.  But, I’m just about done the book, so I’m back….

Anyway, Obama’s stance on the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement is really troubling.  He’s now saying that Elizabeth Warren and other Democrats, and a host of labor unions and other progressives, are all wrong about the TPP.  He says the agreement will protect American workers and their jobs.  But, he won’t tell the American people what’s in the agreement.  It’s “classified.”

Not only that, but he wants Congress to fast-track the agreement.  That is, Congress would only be able to vote it up or down, but would not be able to amend it.

Why the secrecy?  If it’s such a good deal for Americans, why is Obama keeping it a secret?

Obama has been in bed with Wall Street and Corporate America before.  He made a deal with the corporations over Obamacare.  He didn’t go after Wall Street bankers who brought down the economy in 2008.  Why should Obama be trusted now?

Obama, open up the TPP agreement.  Let the people decide for themselves.