The Struggle for the Soul of America: The Future of Our Nation in Hands of a New Generation

This week my daughter graduates from UC Berkeley with a Master’s in Social Work. I couldn’t be prouder of her.

I want to say to her and to all those students graduating across the country: Congratulations! You’ve worked hard and achieved an important milestone. Your family and friends are very proud of you. I hope you are feeling immense gratification and delight in what you’ve accomplished. Pause for a moment to take it all in.

This is a time for reflection on how far you’ve come, as well as exploring what’s next. With the completion of your education, you are about to make your way in the world. This can be both difficult and exciting. Starting a career. Finding the right job. Deciding where to live. So much to consider.

Like everyone else, you will not be making these decisions in a vacuum. We live in extremely challenging times. In making your choices, you may have to take into account issues previous graduates have not had to consider: the state of the pandemic, major inflation and the rising cost of housing, climate change, the challenge to reproductive rights and more.

But there is one additional thing I urge you to think deeply about, and that is, the future of your country. Decades before you were born, a young, newly elected president, John F. Kennedy, in his 1961 inaugural address challenged all Americans to “ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”[1]

Now more than ever, your country needs you. Your country has given you the opportunity to obtain a good education among many other advantages. And you alone will decide how to use them in your life.

At the same time, there is a very dark cloud hanging over our nation. It threatens all of us who believe in American democracy. That murky shadow is autocracy, and it imperils the freedoms and justice so many Americans have fought and died for.

Today we are seeing how destructive authoritarianism can be in Putin’s war on Ukraine. Here at home, we are experiencing this autocratic scourge from book-banning campaigns to laws restricting voting rights and eliminating reproductive rights. Most devastating was the January 6th attack on our Capitol in an effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election and the peaceful transfer of power. This coup was an affront to the most basic principles our nation founded on.

Though it was not of your making, you are now on the frontlines of an epic battle to save our democracy. Whatever you are planning to do as you begin your careers may very well be disrupted or even wiped out by an authoritarian, white supremacist government that could be in our country’s future.

That is why this November’s elections, and the 2024 election are so vital to the survival of our democracy. I urge you all to step up and get actively involved in them. Now is the time to take a stand. You, who are the future of our country, hold the nation’s fate in your hands.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

(P.S. Since I will be at my daughter’s graduation, I won’t be publishing a blog next week, but will be back the following week.)

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.archives.gov/milestone-documents/president-john-f-kennedys-inaugural-address

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Sound the Alarm!

I read the papers and watch the news on TV, but never thought it could happen to me. Then, suddenly, it does.

Friday evening close to midnight, police cars, lights flashing and sirens blasting, came barreling down my quiet country road and up my driveway, 75 miles northeast of Santa Fe. An officer banged on my door and told me I had to evacuate my home. It’s not safe. The raging wildfire that’s already consumed over 100,000 acres and 150-plus homes was just over the hill to the north. I had to leave now before it was too late.

Along with most of my neighbors, I quickly packed my car with family photos, clothes and whatever else I could squeeze in. I left the doors unlocked and my gate opened for the firefighters in case they were able to come and save my home from the uncontrolled firestorm. It was 2:30 in the morning by the time I arrived exhausted at my partner’s home in Santa Fe. 

Now I just sit and wait. Nervously checking online several times a day (See https://www.facebook.com/santafeNF/videos/675228177042752) to learn if the monstrous fire has destroyed my home. There’s nothing else I can do. A friend from across the way tried to get back up to her house yesterday, but the road was blocked off for our own safety. All we can do is pray that our homes are somehow spared.

I am so grateful for the one thousand firefighters giving their all to suppress the fire. I can’t imagine what they are going through. I read online that they don’t expect to have the fire fully contained until the end of July, three months from now. How many more acres and homes will be destroyed by then? It’s mind-boggling and depressing.

I am also very angry. I’m furious that myself and millions of my fellow Americans have been put in such a catastrophic state when it didn’t have to be this way. Climate experts have been warning us about the dangers of global warming since the late 1950s. In 1988 scientists and politicians from around the world gathered at the Toronto Conference on the Changing Atmosphere to address the threat to the Earth’s atmosphere from greenhouse gas emissions. “By the 1990s, most scientists thought action was necessary, but opposition from fossil fuel companies and ideologists opposed to any government action were effective in obscuring the facts and blocking action,” according to Spencer Weart, retired director of the Center for History of Physics at the American Institute of Physics.[1]

The Southwest is in a megadrought. A recent study in the journal Nature Climate Change found that “the last 22 years now rank as the driest such period since at least 800 AD.”[2] Human-caused climate change is a major factor driving this megadrought. Yet, our government has failed to respond to this crisis with the urgency and magnitude it requires.[3]

Call the White House (202-456-1111) and your senators and representative (202-224-31-21). Demand that they take immediate action to pass the strongest possible climate change legislation. Our lives and the survival of the planet are at stake.

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.livescience.com/humans-first-warned-about-climate-change

[2] https://news.climate.columbia.edu/2022/02/14/megadrought-in-southwest-is-now-the-worst-in-at-least-1200-years-study-confirms/

[3] https://www.abc10.com/article/news/nation-world/earth-day-biden-climate-policy/507-bf749989-3546-4735-b1fc-4353c01a7b14

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Can We Learn from the Wildfires?

Friday afternoon my friend John and I helped another friend evacuate his home to escape the wildfires raging in northern New Mexico. As I carried a few of the precious belongings he wished to save from the house to his SUV, I saw the billowing dark smoke ominously rising in the distant sky.

We had no idea how long it would take before the fire might engulf his home. But he could not wait to find out. He knew he must leave while he still could. It was truly a harrowing experience.

Later that evening another friend called John. She said the smoke at her home was making it difficult to breathe. Could she and her son seek refuge at John’s place? Their car packed with their most valued possessions, they arrived at John’s around 10 p.m. that night. Tragically, they had to leave their horses behind.

Both John’s home and my home are 25 miles or more west of the wildfires. Since the winds are blowing northeasterly, we do not appear to be in any danger. But those winds are wicked. While assisting our friend’s evacuation, gusts must have reached 60 mph at times. There’s no guarantee they won’t turn around and put us in harm’s way.

All this makes me stop in my tracks and rethink our current state. What could be more valued than a good friend willing to drop everything and come to your rescue at a perilous time? What could be more precious than a supportive community working together to save people’s homes from a deadly fire?

Yet, our political culture tends to distance us from neighbors with contrary views. Rather than seeking common ground to work on together, we try to overcome those who see things differently than we do. Just think how much better off our country would be if Democrats and Republicans, Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi and Kevin McCarthy, could work together for the common good of all Americans.

It can and does happen. The American Innovation and Choice Online Act which promotes online competition has broad bipartisan support. The bill would prevent the biggest platforms, such as Google and Facebook, from giving themselves an advantage over smaller competitors. The GOP joined the Democrats in supporting this legislation which prohibits big tech firms like Amazon from giving its in-house branded products a leg-up over other brands when someone is shopping on its site. Instead of backing their big business allies as they usually do, Republicans put the interests of the American people in fair competition first.[1]

But fires are not only erupting in our forests. In state houses across the country as well as in the halls of Congress, our politicians are throwing verbal fireballs at each other. If we are to rescue our democracy from these overheated partisan flames, this needs to stop. We need to find a way to reach well-meaning Americans with divergent views to lower the temperature and work together for the common good without sacrificing our values. The American Innovation and Choice Online Act is a step in the right direction.

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.wired.com/story/american-innovation-choice-online-act-antitrust-google-amazon/

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Can Our Broken Democracy Be Fixed?

This past weekend Christians celebrated the resurrection of Jesus Christ over 2000 years ago. At the same time, Jews were commemorating the liberation of their ancestors from Egyptian bondage. Together the Easter and Passover holidays raise a profound question for all Americans in these troubling times:

Can we liberate ourselves from the growing anti-democratic movement in our nation and resurrect our dying democracy?

Honestly, I am not very optimistic. Afterall, our political leaders seem much more interested in gaining and maintaining power than they are in solving our country’s problems. This is particularly true on the right. As I noted in my last blog, “with few exceptions the Republicans have been total naysayers and obstructionists.”[1]

So, what can we do? First, we must come to grips with the fact that we are in a fight for the very survival of democracy. We must press upon state and national Democratic leaders that this is the case and that they, along with us, must publicly stress that we are in this critical battle to save our democracy.

Second, we must call out by name the great many Republicans and the few Democrats who are blocking the effective functioning of our democracy. For instance, senators like Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona, who opposed changing a rule that would have enabled the passage of the Freedom to Vote Act, guaranteeing the right to vote to all Americans.[2] And, the numerous Republicans who are acting to restrict the right to vote in many red states across the country.[3]

Third, we must hold Democrats’ feet to the fire. Voters need to be reassured that President Biden and his party understand their problems and are currently delivering effective solutions. Biden needs to fulfill his pledge to the 43 million Americans with student loan debt to cancel at least part, preferably all, of the $1.7 trillion student debt.[4] We must demand that he keep his promise and do it now.

Congressional Democrats have been trying unsuccessfully to pass Biden’s Build Back Better bill since last summer. Time is running out before November’s crucial elections. Sen. Manchin has been the primary holdout to adopting the legislation. Senate Democrats need to slim the bill down to its most popular provisions – reducing prescription drug prices, tax reforms, and climate investments – which they all can agree on.[5] We must strongly lobby our senators and representatives to adopt the bill immediately and get it on Biden’s desk.

Finally, Americans need to truly understand what putting Republicans in charge of Congress in November would mean. Given how obstructionist they have been as the Congressional minority, it is not difficult to imagine how Republicans could completely thwart any Biden initiative for the remainder of his term in office should they gain control of Congress. Most likely no progress would be made on voting rights, tax reform, prescription drug prices, healthcare, climate change or almost anything else the president might propose to assist most Americans.

So, it is up to you and me. Together we must make crystal clear what is at stake in the coming election. We must call out those who are working to destroy our democracy. And we must demand that our Democratic senators and representatives act now. If our nation is to be liberated from the growing anti-democratic movement in its midst and our dying democracy is to be resurrected, we are the ones who must make it happen.

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://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog/

[2] https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/democrats-rev-voting-rights-push-end-2021-senate-path-remains-n1286080#anchor-Aperfectstorm

[3] https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/elections/19-states-enacted-voting-restrictions-2021-rcna8342

[4] https://www.yahoo.com/news/more-since-biden-found-whether-102000786.html

[5] https://www.vox.com/2022/3/16/22955410/build-back-better-scenarios

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Can We Beat the Odds and Save Our Democracy?

I’m back. While it’s nice to get away, step out of my routine, and experience new adventures, more than ever I’m feeling that there’s no place like home. The comfort and security of one’s own home just can’t be beat.

At the same time, being away gave me a clearer, broader perspective on my life and the news of the day. In the coming weeks and months, I think you will see a somewhat different slant in my blog. Hopefully more personal and connected to our lives. So, here goes….

The odds are the Democrats will lose control of the House in the November elections. They could lose the Senate as well. Historically, the president’s party usually does poorly in midterm elections.[1]

While Washington politics seem far away from our everyday lives, we ignore what’s going on there at our own peril. Though the Democrats have not had an easy time of it, especially in terms of passing major bills in the Senate, they have significantly improved the lives of most Americans since taking control of the government a year ago January. Meanwhile, with few exceptions the Republicans have been total naysayers and obstructionists.

Take, for instance, the $1.9 trillion COVID Relief Bill Biden signed into law less than two months after taking office on January 20th of last year. Not one Republican supported that bill despite the dire needs of millions of Americans in the midst of the deadly pandemic. Among other benefits, the legislation provided $1,400 checks to millions of Americans including yours truly, extended unemployment benefits, increased the child tax credit, offered housing assistance to low-income Americans and expanded health care coverage.

Since then, the Biden administration has made significant progress in getting the pandemic under control. When he took office, the number of new cases averaged close to 200,000 a day. Now it’s less than 30,000 per day.[2] While almost one million Americans have died from COVID 19, the weekly death rate is now down to under 500.[3] Though there is more work to be done to overcome the virus and protect American lives, Senate Republicans are now blocking a $10 billion bill to continue the fight against COVID 19.[4]

Safeguarding our democracy is another critical area where Republicans have tried to obstruct Democrats’ efforts. Senate Democrats proposed an independent commission of experts, like the 911 commission, to investigate the January 6th insurrection. Senate Republicans blocked its creation fearing “the political damage that could come from scrutiny of the storming of the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob…”[5] Instead, the House Select Committee investigating the attack on the Capitol, which Republicans also opposed, has become a political football. While Democrats want to shield our democracy from further assault, most Republicans downplay the deadly insurrection and continue to support the undermining of our democracy by Trump and his lies about the 2020 election.[6] If we sit back and allow right-wing Republicans to destroy our democracy, we will lose many of our precious rights and privileges guaranteed by the Constitution.

The country’s economy is yet another field where Democrats have advanced the nation’s position while Republicans ignore the facts and falsely rebut progress. “The economy created more than a stunning 6.6 million jobs in 2021 — more than the first three years of Donald Trump’s term combined — as the unemployment rate experienced the fastest one-year drop on record.”[7] Meanwhile, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel argues that the Biden economic recovery plan “is not working!”[8] Once again, Republican propaganda is blurring American voters’ ability to see what’s really going on.

Most recently, President Biden’s Supreme Court nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, soon to be the first black woman justice on the court, was confirmed with minimal Republican support. Forty-seven Republican senators voted against her confirmation despite her universally recognized qualifications for the position.[9] Fortunately, Republican prejudice and thirst for power failed to win the day.

Except for inflation and related issues – an essential piece of the puzzle Democrats are still working on — Americans strongly support Democratic positions on these matters.[10] But the Republican propaganda machine is very effective in persuading voters. We cannot let them continue to distort the facts and con the voters.

It is up to all of us to help get the truth out to our fellow Americans before this year’s critical November elections. While I find the state of our nation’s politics pretty depressing, I know how critical these elections are. Like many of you, I am fed up, but I am not willing to give up. American democracy is too vital to our way of life.

I urge you to stand with the millions of Americans who care about the future of our nation.

Write letters to the editor! Support Democratic candidates! Join the fight 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.vox.com/22899204/midterm-elections-president-biden-thermostatic-opinion

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/us/covid-cases.html

[3] https://usafacts.org/visualizations/coronavirus-covid-19-spread-map/

[4] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/covid-relief-deal-senate-10-billion-republicans/

[5] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/28/us/politics/capitol-riot-commission.html

[6] https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/06/us/politics/jan-6-capitol-riot-aftermath.html

[7] https://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/maddowblog/biden-era-job-growth-good-gop-literally-speechless-rcna15144

[8] Ibid.

[9] https://news.yahoo.com/ketanji-brown-jackson-supreme-court-senate-vote-first-black-woman-181745296.html

[10] https://www.axios.com/poll-ketanji-brown-jackson-senate-supreme-court-38763a57-f656-44a5-939b-94443042abb1.html; https://www.politico.com/news/2022/01/02/house-jan-6-committee-popular-republicans-526092;

The Struggle for the Soul of America: A View from Afar

It’s another beautiful morning in paradise. I’m sitting alone on the beach in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico. Tiny waves create a recurring rhythm as they roll ashore just 20 feet in front of me while a gentle sea breeze embraces my entire body.

I feel very fortunate to be here, so calming and reassuring. At the same time, on the other side of our planet, Ukrainians are being mercilessly killed as they desperately attempt to save their homeland from a senseless Russian invasion. Many millions more are suffering all over the world from hunger, disease, natural disaster, and armed conflict.

In our own country, people are struggling to save democracy. The Democrats are having great difficulty providing what the vast majority of Americans want due to a recalcitrant minority who can’t or refuse to accept the core principles of our nation. They don’t get that universal forces have brought us together from all over the globe, a diverse people from many different countries, races, religions and backgrounds all yearning for the same thing: a better life with “liberty and justice for all.”

Unfortunately, Americans have very different ideas of what that means. Some people believe they have the liberty to do whatever they please regardless of the consequences that may impose on others. Donald Trump is the epitome of that way of thinking. On the other hand, other people feel that we are not free until all our fellow Americans are free.

Perhaps, an even bigger issue is how Americans are divided on the meaning and application of justice in our country:

Is it just for a security guard who shoots and kills an unarmed black teenager to go free because the guard had suspicions about the teenager’s activities?

Is it just for a few Americans to accumulate billions of dollars while many others live in poverty, a good number of them homeless?

As we saw on January 6, 2021, we are in the midst of an armed and deadly conflict over the very soul of our nation. Are all Americans brothers and sisters in one big, complex family? Or are we a huge conglomeration of individuals just in it for ourselves?

I think what really divides us is our fear of the other. Whether it’s the other gender, race, nationality, sexual preference or what have you. Those driven by their fear seek power. They want to control the ‘other’ to alleviate their own fear. It’s scary and depressing what they are willing to do to gain and maintain control. And it’s impossible to predict how this will all turn out.

With all that, I am fortunate to be able to take a ‘time out’ away from all the turmoil of our world. To see the broader picture from afar. I feel great gratitude for my stay in Puerto Rico. Most people do not have the time or resources for such luxury. So, with renewed vitality and vision, I’m ready to return to the real world and continue in the struggle for the soul of America.

At the same time, the ocean will keep on washing onto the shore, wave after wave after wave forever. And we are just a tiny moment in eternity.

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: Through the Darkness, Signs of Positive Change on the Horizon

We live in extremely challenging times. A great many of us are overwhelmed by what’s taking place in our country and in the world. Yet, as dark as it may seem, some encouraging signs of positive change are on the horizon.

The Ukrainian people in the face of a massive attack on their country are showing amazing courage and fortitude. An inspiration to all of us. “Ukrainian forces (have) continued to halt significant Russian battlefield gains,” according to recent reports.[1] At the same time, Russian protests against the war are steadily intensifying. More than 5,000 anti-war demonstrators were arrested in 69 Russian cities last Sunday alone.[2] Western nations have united to impose crippling sanctions against Russia in an effort to pressure Putin to end the war.[3] And military expert, retired Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman even predicted that “the Russian invasion into Ukraine marked the ‘beginning of the end’ for Russian President Vladimir Putin as casualties from the war grow.”[4]

On the home front, COVID cases are declining significantly.[5] Almost the entire country is open for business. The U.S. economy added a record 6.4 million new jobs in 2021.[6] And Congress finally passed a $1.5 trillion bipartisan budget, including support for Ukraine and climate protection.[7]

One of the most surprising signs of progress is in the redistricting battles occurring across the country. Republican gerrymandering was supposed to give the GOP a distinct, unfair advantage in November’s Congressional elections. But Democrats are winning redistricting court cases in key battleground states like Pennsylvania and North Carolina. According to CNN, “they now have a chance to come out better than expected, and perhaps even benefit from the new maps overall.”[8] With President Biden’s poll numbers finally rising, the Democrats just might have a chance of holding onto their majority in Congress next fall.[9]

Finally, slowly but surely, the January 6th insurrectionists are being brought to justice. Earlier this month, a federal jury convicted Guy Wesley Reffitt on the very serious charge of obstructing Congress’s certification of the 2020 presidential election. At the same time, the Justice Department announced the indictment of the former Proud Boys leader, Enrique Tarrio, on charges of conspiring with several of his top lieutenants to plan and launch the assault on the Capitol.[10]

Just this week Attorney General Merrick Garland stressed that “almost every U.S. attorney’s office in the country is working on this matter…People are working every day, 24/7, and are fully aware of how important this is. This had to do with the interference with the peaceful transfer of power from one administration to another. And it doesn’t get more important than that.[11]

Meanwhile, the House Select committee investigating the insurrection, recently said in a court filing that it had gathered sufficient evidence to conclude that former President Trump and some of his allies might have conspired to commit fraud and obstruction by misleading Americans about the outcome of the 2020 election and attempting to overturn the result.[12]

We are moving forward. Truly positive change is on the horizon.

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.aljazeera.com/news/2022/3/10/russia-ukraine-war-military-dispatch-march-10-2022; https://us.yahoo.com/news/ukraines-army-vastly-outgunned-inflicts-211426968.html

[2] https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/3/10/anti-war-protests-intensify-in-russia-along-with-police-crackdown

[3] https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/05/world/europe/russia-ukraine-invasion-sanctions.html

[4] https://www.yahoo.com/news/vindman-beginning-end-putin-171123293.html

[5] https://www.axios.com/covid-cases-continue-steep-decline-in-us-420ab059-19df-4d4c-9052-178fe17aeb3e.html

[6] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-01-07/u-s-sees-record-job-growth-in-2021-after-millions-lost-in-2020#:~:text=The%20U.S.%20economy%20added%20a,Labor%20Department%20data%20released%20Friday.

[7] https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/10/us/politics/senate-spending-bill-approved.html

[8] https://edition.cnn.com/2022/03/08/politics/democrats-congressional-redistricing-fights-ctzn/index.html

[9] https://www.usnews.com/news/national-news/articles/2022-03-08/bidens-approval-rises-in-crisis

[10] https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/08/us/politics/guy-reffitt-jan-6-trial.html

[11] https://www.npr.org/2022/03/10/1085016383/garland-says-the-jan-6-investigation-wont-end-until-everyone-is-held-to-account

[12] https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/08/us/politics/guy-reffitt-jan-6-trial.html

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Is Trump’s Support of Putin’s Ukraine Invasion a Bridge Too Far for Republicans?

It’s hard to know what to make of the Republican Party these days. The Grand Old Party used to stand for family values and against the former communist Soviet Union, now Russia. Remember when Republican President Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union the “evil empire?” That was before Donald Trump came along and turned the GOP upside down.

Trump recently congratulated Russian President Putin’s invasion of the Ukraine calling it a “savvy” move and a “stroke of genius.”[1] With Trump heading the Party, many Republicans followed his lead and began seeing Russia in a more favorable light. In a recent Gallup poll, only one-in-three Republicans saw Russia as a threat.[2]

As for family values, the only one Republicans support is the right to be born. Once a mother gives birth and an actual family exists, the GOP wants no part of it. A few months ago, with Trump cheering them on, Congressional Republicans rejected President Biden’s Build Back Better legislation to support stronger families. The bill would have extended child tax credits, provided universal preschool for all 3 and 4-year old children, offered free school lunches for millions of low-income students, expanded healthcare, capped childcare costs and more.[3]   

But maybe Trump’s embrace of Putin and his invasion of democratic Ukraine was a bridge too far for even most Republicans.  A recent NBC poll “found that 56% of GOPers describe themselves as supporters of the Republican Party, with 36% saying they are supporters of Trump. That’s a reversal from late 2020, when 54% described themselves as supporters of Trump and 38% supporters of the GOP.”[4]

Trump’s biggest supporters in 2020 were white male voters without a college degree. Seventy percent of them went for Trump. Now only 50% favor him while 46% disapprove. Additionally, voters over 65 are generally more conservative. Trump won 52% of them in 2020. A recent poll indicated that 60% of those older voters now view Trump unfavorably.[5]

At the same time, Biden’s performance has not been receiving very high marks. The latest poll has him at 53% disapproval and 43% approval.[6] Still, a January survey found that Biden would best Trump, 53% to 43%, in a hypothetical 2024 rematch.[7]

What to make of all this? More Republicans appear to be tiring of Trump’s empty bluster. They are seeing Trump as the con man that he is, whether it’s his Big Lie about the 2020 election or his support of Putin. They abhor Trump’s vengefulness and his constantly putting himself above the interests of their party.

What remains to be seen is the Democrats’ response. Bill Maher recently suggested that the Democrats need to be gracious to those former Trump lovers. Not to shame them for their failure to see through Trump, but rather “provide a face-saving path” out of Trump world.[8]

This is another opportunity for the Democrats to regain their mojo. With the coming House Select Committee’s hearings on the January 6th insurrection, the receding of the COVID pandemic, the nominating of a highly qualified, black woman to the Supreme Court, the recovering economy and Trump’s losing his shine, Biden and the Democrats may yet win back the voting public next fall.

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://fortune.com/2022/02/23/trump-cheers-putin-ukraine-invasion-as-savvy-genius-russia/

[2] https://time.com/6150495/republicans-russia-putin-trump/

[3] https://www.deseret.com/2021/11/19/22792043/build-back-better-bill-senate-families-biden-congress

[4] https://www.usnews.com/news/the-report/articles/2022-02-11/bidens-loss-isnt-trumps-gain

[5] Ibid.

[6] https://graphics.reuters.com/USA-BIDEN/POLL/nmopagnqapa/

[7] https://www.usnews.com/news/the-report/articles/2022-02-11/bidens-loss-isnt-trumps-gain

[8] https://www.thewrap.com/bill-maher-warns-democrats-not-to-humiliate-republican-voters-whose-trump-fever-is-cooling-down-video/

The Struggle for the Soul of America: The Utter Failure of the Republican Party

The Struggle for the Soul of America: A Build Back Better Act to Save the Democratic Congress and Our Democracy

If Pres. Biden and Congressional Democrats act quickly, they can still pass the Build Back Better bill and protect voting rights in time to save our democracy before the November elections.

Last December I was part of a small contingent of New Mexicans that met with two of NM Sen. Ben Ray Lujan’s top staffers. We advocated for:

  • the elimination of all remaining sections of the Build Back Better (BBB) Act to which Sens. Manchin and/or Sinema still objected; and
  • the inclusion of the Freedom to Vote Act, which Manchin and Sinema support, in the BBB bill with a budget item for implementation so it meets (at least in part) the reconciliation process requirements.

While they considered our viewpoint, Lujan’s lieutenants rejected our proposal. For one, they did not believe voting rights belonged in the BBB bill and, rather, should stand alone. Last week that strategy failed when Senate Republicans along with Manchin and Sinema defeated a stand-alone voting rights act by rejecting a change in the filibuster which would have permitted the adoption of the bill.

How To Pass BBB and Voting Rights

Since the Democrats’ previous attempts to pass the BBB and the Freedom to Vote acts have failed, here’s how they should now proceed to have a better chance of success:

1. White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain has to make amends for his harsh remarks regarding Sen. Manchin’s rejection of the BBB legislation last year. Manchin is reported to be very upset about being publicly called out by Klain after the senator scrapped the bill.[1]

2. Pres. Biden needs to sit down with Manchin and Sinema and together agree on a BBB reconciliation bill in the range of $1.7 trillion. This would include the Freedom to Vote and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement acts which the senators already support. The stand-alone voting rights act couldn’t overcome the filibuster. Inserting voting provisions into the BBB reconciliation bill provides the only chance to enact them. That is because “reconciliation legislation limits Senate debate on the bill to 20 hours and therefore, is not subject to the filibuster,”[2] thus allowing a simple majority to pass the bill.

3. Senate Democrats must rename the bill. Labeling the legislation the Lewis-Manchin Build Back Better Act would recognize and reward Sen. Manchin for his central role in both drafting and enacting this historic legislation. It might also increase Manchin’s determination to have the bill enacted and his name enshrined in history. Additionally, the new name would acknowledge the late Rep. John Lewis’s valiant work in advancing voting rights. And, perhaps most importantly, the fresh title would help to unite the progressive and moderate wings of the Democratic Party in their efforts to win the mid-term elections and save our democracy.

Overcoming the Obstacles to Enacting Build Back Better

A major hurdle to enacting the BBB bill is the requirement that the Senate parliamentarian determine whether sections of the bill meet the requirements for including them in the reconciliation legislation.[3]

However, the parliamentarian’s ruling is only advisory. So, if she determines that voting rights provisions are “extraneous” to the BBB act under the Byrd Rule guiding reconciliation, and must be eliminated, the Democrats would have to override her decision in order to include those provisions in the final bill.[4] In fact, the “law gives the presiding officer – and only the presiding officer – the initial authority to determine if a disputed provision violates the Byrd Rule.”[5] In this case, Vice President Kamala Harris would be the presiding officer and would rule in all likelihood that the voting rights provisions are not extraneous.

Arguing that voting rights are not extraneous, Democrats could assert that inclusion of those provisions in the BBB act is essential to safeguarding major portions of the bill from being overturned by the next Congress. Without protecting the right to vote, millions of Americans’ voting rights are now being severely compromised by state legislatures. That could radically change the composition of the next Congress which then might very well vote to eliminate the budget changes implemented by the BBB legislation, or to refuse to appropriate funding for those changes.

Democrats Must Play Hardball

Sen. Mitch McConnell ignored Senate rules and procedures to deny President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court a hearing on his nomination in the spring of 2016, many months prior to the fall election.[6] Then, when President Trump’s Supreme Court nomination of Neil Gorsuch was stymied by the Democrats’ filibuster in 2017, McConnell changed Senate rules to confirm Gorsuch by a simple majority.[7] Subsequently, he ignored established procedures and rammed through the Senate the confirmation of Trump’s nominee by a simple majority right before the 2020 election.[8]

Now Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and the Democrats must play hardball as well. Bend Senate rules just as McConnell has done to secure what he wanted. Do whatever it takes to include voting rights protection in the BBB Act and get the bill to President Biden’s desk by the end of February. It may well save the Democrats’ control of Congress and Biden’s presidency as well as our democracy. Call Schumer’s office and your senators (202-224-3121) and demand they act now!

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://news.yahoo.com/joe-manchin-reportedly-furious-ron-150015171.html

[2] https://www.ncsl.org/blog/2017/01/13/how-the-congressional-reconciliation-process-works.aspx

[3] Ibid.

[4] 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

[5] https://www.legislativeprocedure.com/blog/2021/7/20/immigration-and-the-byrd-rule

[6] https://www.npr.org/2018/06/29/624467256/what-happened-with-merrick-garland-in-2016-and-why-it-matters-now

[7] https://www.npr.org/2017/04/06/522847700/senate-pulls-nuclear-trigger-to-ease-gorsuch-confirmation

[8] https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/27/us/mcconnell-barrett-confirmation.html