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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bruce Berlin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Do Your Part

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bruce Berlin

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Will the Republican Party Go Down With Trump?

What will it take for Republicans in Congress to denounce President Trump’s lies, abuses of power and downright corruption? Or, is it just too late in the election cycle for such brave pronouncements?

Recently we have seen a number of former military brass and Republican cabinet members speak truth to power. But only Sens. Murkowski and Romney in the Republican controlled Senate have broken ranks with Trump. While many other Republican members of Congress  quietly agree with the generals and their two Senate colleagues, their fear of Trump’s retribution appears to be stronger than their love of country. It seems they would rather remain silent and see our democracy shattered, than reject Trump’s authoritarian rule and be primaried by a Trump sycophant in their next election bid.

More and more Republican heavyweights like former Pres. George W. Bush and Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Fla.),[1] who served as Bush’s ambassador to the Vatican, are renouncing Trump. Yet, almost all congressional Republicans appear to be too scared of the bully in the White House to abandon the president, protect the Constitution and maintain their honor. At this point, it seems the only thing the Republican Party stands for is Trump, and, of course, lowering taxes for its wealthy donors.

With the election less than five months away, the Party appears to have given up on its options.  At this point, it is stuck with Trump. Those who can no longer stomach the president are jumping ship. If the Trump destroyer sinks in November, will the Party go down with its captain?

According to Jessica Taylor, Senate editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, the answer is “yes”: “Ultimately Senate Republicans’ fate will be tied to Trump…”[2] And, Trump’s approval ratings are sinking fast. He’s down 10 points in just the last month to 39% in the latest Gallup poll.[3]  In fact, Trump has become an albatross around the necks of a great many Republican candidates.[4] While anything can happen between now and the election, the odds of the Democrats gaining control of the Senate are clearly improving.

Another indicator that the Democrats’ chances are increasing is fundraising. The New York Times recently reported that the “Democrats raised substantially more money than Republicans did in the first quarter (of 2020) in the most pivotal congressional races.”[5]

That’s not to say the Democrats will have an easy time of it this fall. As I’ve noted before, the Republicans ability to interfere with the voting process will play a major factor in the election. Trump and the Republicans will do whatever they can to win. Voter suppression, closing numerous polling places, voter purges and challenging voters at the polls are just some of the tactics they’ll use to hamper Democratic turnout.[6]

While the tide is turning in the Democrats favor, we can’t take anything for granted. We all need to pitch in to ensure a huge voter turnout as well as a fair election.

Now is the time to get involved. Join the fight for free, fair, and secure elections at https://fairfight.com/ or the Voter Protection Corps at https://www.voter-protection.org/.

To learn how to help get out the vote, go to https://www.nonprofitvote.org/nonprofits-voting-elections-online/helping-people-vote/.

Together we can, and we will, revive democracy in America.

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.yahoo.com/huffpost/republican-voters-against-trump-wont-vote-125230045.html

[2] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-06-11/trump-s-slipping-polls-make-gop-holding-senate-more-daunting

[3] https://news.gallup.com/poll/312572/trump-job-approval-slides.aspx

[4] https://trofire.com/2020/05/28/data-proves-trump-is-poison-for-republicans-running-for-office/

[5] https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/25/us/politics/trump-election-briefings.html

[6] https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/05/18/republicans-are-serious-about-voter-suppression-heres-how-stop-them/

 

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Many Republicans Oppose Trump, Too

In last week’s blog I wrote that “nothing less than the survival of American democracy is at stake” in this year’s election. I noted that Prof. Peter Dreier of Occidental College believes the election is “about democracy vs. fascism.”

One reader retorted that my blog gave her a good laugh. Another thought Dreier’s remarks were just liberal bluster. Though most of you didn’t respond, I’m sure many agreed with Dreier’s dire warning.

Whether one is conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat, it’s hard to understand how one cannot take what’s happening in our country seriously.  Armed militia recently marched on the Michigan statehouse protesting the governor’s coronavirus-related restrictions.[1] Pres. Trump not only rejects Congress’s power of oversight,[2]  but he also refuses to use the Defense Production Act (DPA) to save American lives.[3] And, just yesterday Trump fired another independent executive branch watchdog who found fault with his administration.[4]

Trump has absolutely failed to protect Americans against the coronavirus. Many health professionals fighting the virus still do not have the personal protective equipment (PPE) they need. While Trump praises healthcare workers, his failure to fully employ the DPA has resulted in “shortages across the country…so severe that a number of hospitals are trying to come up with ways to innovate using the same PPE more than once — a practice that was unheard of in the United States prior to the coronavirus crisis.”[5] Still, it’s mind-boggling that this pandemic which has affected 100,000s of Americans, and killing 1000s of people daily, has become a political football.[6]

Yet, Democrats are not the only ones fed up with Trump. Conservative attorney George Conway, husband of Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway, and Rick Wilson, former Republican consultant, are leading a group of Republicans called the Lincoln Project which aims to make Trump a one-term president.

The Lincoln Project as well as many other conservatives firmly believe Trump is a danger to the nation.[7] In fact, nearly a quarter of Republicans think that the party should nominate someone other than Trump as their 2020 presidential nominee.[8] In addition, “highly respected and renowned conservative political columnists like Jennifer Rubin, George Will, Kathleen Parker, Jonah Goldberg and others have long been writing about his incompetence, egotism, ignorance of foreign policy, dishonesty, cruelty and overall lack of integrity. Even the very conservative Wall Street Journal is publishing editorials and columns against his incompetence and lies.”[9]

Regardless of this Republican rebellion, Trump still has a strong following. Fortunately for the country, they are in the minority. But that is not enough reason to believe Trump will lose in November.

Trump is a very clever salesman, an unrelenting con artist. He still has powerful people like Mitch McConnell and wealthy donors like Sheldon Adelson supporting him. And, most Republicans will do just about anything to win.

So, it is up to us, the American people, to save our country from the ruin that a second Trump term will surely bring. We must do everything we can to get everyone registered to vote and then follow through by voting, demand the right to mail-in voting and do whatever else we can to ensure an overwhelming defeat of a president who doesn’t care about the American people or our country, but only cares about himself.

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.yahoo.com/news/michigan-militia-puts-armed-protest-043435517.html

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/27/us/trump-signing-statement-coronavirus.html

[3] https://doyle.house.gov/media/press-releases/congressman-doyle-demands-president-trump-use-defense-production-act-save

[4] https://www.yahoo.com/news/pompeo-fires-state-dept-watchdog-024122794.html

[5] https://truthout.org/articles/trump-says-doctors-and-nurses-running-into-death-is-beautiful-thing-to-see/?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=104d96e5-c966-4ea1-9126-6d44080cd4b2

[6] https://thehill.com/homenews/coronavirus-report/497529-governors-warn-covid-relief-is-becoming-a-political-football

[7] https://www.c-span.org/video/?471995-5/washington-journal-rick-wilson-discusses-campaign-2020

[8] https://www.yahoo.com/news/nearly-quarter-likely-republican-voters-173919559.html

[9] https://www.wiscnews.com/baraboonewsrepublic/opinion/columnists/nash-column-trumps-finally-worn-out-welcome-with-many-in-gop/article_6dc396e4-5c95-540a-8aa7-7d033c2e945c.html

 

The Struggle for the Soul of America: All Hands On Deck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Together we can, and will, save our democracy. 

Bruce Berlin

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

Here’s the article in full:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abject surrender 

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

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

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

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

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

Fertile ground 

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

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

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

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

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

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

4

The Struggle for the Soul of America: How Can Biden Win?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bruce Berlin

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

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

 

 

 

 

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Once Again, It’s All About the Money

President Trump recently proclaimed that “We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself.” By which he means that the cure of a national stay-at-home order and shutting down the economy would be worse than the further spreading of the coronavirus.

Trump even implied that the deaths of thousands of Americans is not that big of a deal. Afterall, he noted that thousands of Americans die in car accidents every year, but we don’t “tell everybody no more driving of cars.” See https://news.yahoo.com/trump-downplays-coronavirus-threat-again-even-as-number-of-cases-in-us-surges-001339863.html.

For Trump, the bottom line is getting the economy going again as soon as possible, in order to avoid a recession, or possibly a depression, and bolster his re-election prospects. In Trump’s mind, that’s more important than the thousands, some suggest millions, of Americans who will die if the coronavirus is not contained before economic activity is re-ignited.

Of course, no one knows for sure how this will play out. Other countries’ experiences, however, are instructive. In China, where the pandemic originated, researchers have found that stay-at-home orders were a key to stemming the spread of the virus. Now, two months since the Chinese lockdown began, the number of new cases is very low, down from thousands per day at the peak. See https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00741-x; https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/19/asia/coronavirus-covid-19-update-china-intl-hnk/index.html.

Hong Kong’s situation is even more telling. Since the beginning of March when much of Hong Kong’s workforce stopped working from home and returned to their workplaces, the number of reported cases of coronavirus has nearly tripled. See https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/23/asia/hong-kong-coronavirus-quarantine-intl-hnk/index.html.

Meanwhile, Congress is rushing to pass a $2 trillion stimulus package to support laid off workers, collapsing small businesses and suffering corporations. Here, paradoxically, Trump may be correct. This supposed cure for America’s economic woes may be worse than the recession that is about to descend upon us. According to the Huffington Post, “The emergency… legislation that the Senate agreed to on Tuesday (is)…an outrage. It is not an economic rescue package, but a sentence of unprecedented economic inequality and corporate control over our politics…It represents a transfer of wealth and power to the super rich from the rest of us, with the support of both political parties…” See https://www.yahoo.com/huffpost/senate-democrats-donald-trump-coronavirus-bill-181622873.html.

The bill provides $367 billion in loans to help small businesses hit hard by the outbreak to keep making payroll, $100 billion for hospitals, and $150 billion for state and local governments. It also provides for Americans who make up to $75,000 to receive a one-time payment of $1,200. A $500 billion fund, which can be leveraged to 10 times that amount, earmarked for corporations that have been economically damaged by the pandemic, will be overseen by an inspector general and a congressional panel in accordance with Democrats’ demands.

However, according to HuffPost, “the oversight terms that Democrats secured are purely cosmetic, replicating the toothless provisions of the 2008 bank bailout that enabled watchdogs to report abuse but not actually prevent or rectify it….Democrats and Republicans have essentially decided to hold a pittance of relief for the people hit hardest hostage to the most reckless and… unnecessary corporate welfare program ever conceived.” .” See https://www.yahoo.com/huffpost/senate-democrats-donald-trump-coronavirus-bill-181622873.html.

Former Republican, Rep. Justin Amash called the plan “a raw deal for the people.” He explained that “It does far too little for those who need the most help, while providing hundreds of billions in corporate welfare, massively growing government, inhibiting economic adaptation, and widening the gap between the rich and the poor.” See https://www.yahoo.com/news/rep-amash-signals-may-single-134541682.html.

Finally, HuffPost analysts believe that “the legislation provides nothing of substance to address the coronavirus pandemic itself…It mobilizes no new resources, organizes no production, improves no medical supply delivery and trains no new nurses. Instead, it moves an enormous amount of money around and puts the Trump administration in charge of its movement.” See https://www.yahoo.com/huffpost/senate-democrats-donald-trump-coronavirus-bill-181622873.html.

As of this writing, Speaker Pelosi and the House Democrats have not yet signed off on this shameful deal crafted by the devious Sen, Mitch McConnell. Call Pelosi ((202) 225-4965), Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), other House Democrats ((202) 224-3121) and your U.S. Senators ((202) 224-3121) now and voice your strong opposition to another cowardly cave-in to Big Money.

Bruce Berlin

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

We should ask Mr. Trump:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bruce Berlin

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

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