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: Are Democrats Turning the Corner?

The popular consensus until now has been that the Democrats are in deep trouble and will likely get hammered in the coming November elections. Considering their inability to pass the Build Back Better social reforms bill or voting rights protections and Biden’s low polling numbers, the Democrats clearly looked like big losers come next fall. Then suddenly, the winds of change appear to be turning in their direction.

One of the main issues that the failed voting rights legislation addressed was partisan gerrymandering.  Republican controlled state legislatures have been drawing House district lines that reduce the number of districts that favor Democrats. Since the GOP only needs to flip five seats to take control of the House, their gerrymandering efforts seemed to be getting the job done.

But the Democrats have been fighting back in the courts and winning. In fact, according to the L.A. Times, “when all is done, it’s even possible Democrats could emerge with a slight gain compared with the current maps.”[1] For example, the Ohio State Supreme Court struck down the Republican legislature’s partisan redistricting map.[2] And, on Friday the North Carolina Supreme Court did as well.[3] The Democrats’ chances of holding onto the House majority are clearly improving.

Another recent development that should help the Democrats next fall is Biden’s upcoming pick of a black woman to sit on the Supreme Court. While Blacks’ support of the Democratic Party has been waning since the 2020 election, Biden’s naming a black woman to the Court will likely reverse that trend. Republican opposition to this nomination will have racial overtones which will further motivate Blacks to get out the vote and defeat GOP candidates at the polls.

A third cloud looming over the Republicans’ election prospects is their response to the January 6 attack on the Capitol. This week the Republican National Committee formally censured the two members of their party, Reps. Cheney and Kinzinger, who serve on the House Select Committee investigating the insurrection. The RNC censure accused their two colleagues of “participating in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.”[4] Meanwhile, an overwhelming majority (72%) of Americans, including 45% of Republicans, believe the people involved in the attack on the Capitol were “threatening democracy.”5

Many GOP lawmakers are now downplaying what happened on January 6. The House Select Committee will soon hold televised hearings to lay out to the nation exactly what occurred then and leading up to that day. Will swing voters in November want to support those Republicans who not only refuse to acknowledge the truth regarding the attempted coup, but also continue to back Trump who is plotting to do it again?

Finally, Biden and the Democrats have a positive record that should increase their electoral fortunes. The recent tremendous rise in employment figures along with the great reduction in omicron cases give voters reason to stick with the Democrats. Of course, a lot can and will happen in the nine months until the election. But the Democratic picture is certainly brighter today than it’s been in quite some time.

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.latimes.com/politics/newsletter/2022-01-21/state-courts-rein-in-gerrymandering-a-help-to-democrats-essential-politics

[2] Ibid.

[3] https://www.politico.com/news/2022/02/04/north-carolina-congressional-map-struck-down-00005974

[4] https://www.cnn.com/2022/02/04/politics/liz-cheney-adam-kinzinger-censure-rnc/index.html

[5] https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/majority-americans-jan-attack-threatened-democracy-poll/story?id=81990555

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Signs of Hope in the New Year

While 2021 was a very challenging year in many respects, the new year is bringing some hopeful signs of better days ahead for restoring our democracy. When times look bad, it’s good to have reason for hope to keep us all going.

It has been a full year since the violent attack on our nation’s Capitol which killed five people and seriously injured over 100 police officers. More and more Americans are wondering whether those who conspired to overthrow our government will ever be held accountable.

Hope in the Department of Justice

On Wednesday, the day before the first anniversary of the insurrection, Attorney General Merrick Garland assured the nation that, “The Justice Department remains committed to holding all January 6th perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law, whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy. We will follow the facts wherever they lead.”[1] That means Donald Trump, the conspirator-in-chief, is not out of the woods and may very well be prosecuted and brought to justice.

Hope in President Biden

The next day, President Biden “ripped into Trump’s subversion of democracy and the refusal of most Republicans to stand up to the former president’s lies. In what was by far the most passionate, forceful and effective speech of his presidency, he moved democracy to the center of the nation’s political debate,” according to Washington Post political columnist E. J. Dionne Jr.[2]

Biden declared, “You cannot love your country only when you win…You can’t be patriotic when you embrace and enable lies.” And he placed the responsibility on “all of us…to stand for the rule of law, to preserve the flame of democracy…(and) keep the promise of America alive.”[3] Hopefully, Americans of all political stripes will respond to Biden’s call. And it appears that they are doing just that.

Hope in Former Trump Administration Officials

A growing number of Republicans are working to prevent both another Trump presidency as well as more political violence undermining our democracy. Stephanie Grisham, former press secretary in the Trump White House, is helping to organize this effort. In the White House on January 6th, she observed that Trump was “gleeful” watching his supporters attacking the Capitol.[4] Another key organizer, former Department of Homeland Security chief of staff, Miles Taylor, also co-founded the Renew America Movement, a group to support candidates across the political spectrum that identify as being in favor of reforms to strengthen democracy.[5]

Meanwhile, numerous members of former Vice President Pence’s staff are cooperating with the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th insurrection. They include former chief of staff, Marc Short, as well as his former national security adviser, Keith Kellogg. In addition, multiple tiers of Pence’s staff who were at the White House on Jan. 6 have been “integral” in helping the committee flesh out what happened.[6]

The committee, of course, is the House Select Committee investigating the insurrection. The nation is being well served by its members and their work. Just think where the committee might be now due to Republican obstructive tactics, if House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had kept the rest of his Republican picks on the committee after Speaker Pelosi refused to accept Trump allies Reps. Jim Jordan and Jim Banks.[7]

Hope in former Republican officials

Staunch conservative, Bill Kristol, a former adviser to President Reagan, has formed Defending Democracy Together with other Never-Trump Republicans. The organization is dedicated to defending America’s democratic norms, values, and institutions. It recently hired lobbyists in an attempt to rein in presidential emergency powers, refine the federal government’s war powers and clarify Congress’s subpoena authority.[8]

Even ruthless Republicans like Karl Rove are denouncing the attack on the Capitol and demanding justice. He recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal:

To move beyond Jan. 6, 2021, we must put country ahead of party…There can be no soft-pedaling what happened and no absolution for those who planned, encouraged and aided the attempt to overthrow our democracy. Love of country demands nothing less. That’s true patriotism.[9]

Hope in Liz and Dick Cheney

The only Republican official who participated in the Capitol commemoration of the January 6th attack this past Thursday was Rep. Liz Cheney, Vice-chair of the Select Committee. Ironically enough, she brought her dad, Dick Cheney, along with her. The former vice-president, you may remember, was the mastermind of the Bush Administration and its fabricated justification for the immoral Iraq War.

Here’s what the elder Cheney had to say:

I am deeply disappointed at the failure of many members of my party to recognize the grave nature of the January 6 attacks and the ongoing threat to our nation.[10]

Hope for Democracy

A pro-democracy movement is growing across the political spectrum. The struggle for the soul of America is far from over. Hopefully, this movement will prevail and, as Lincoln pronounced in the midst of the bloody Civil War, our nation “shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”[11]

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.c-span.org/video/?c4994302/attorney-general-pledges-january-6-attack-perpetrators-held-accountable

[2] https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/01/06/biden-tells-truth-best-speech-his-presidency/

[3] Ibid.

[4] https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/stephanie-grisham-trump-gleefully-watched-jan-6-1280113/

[5] https://www.politico.com/news/2022/01/06/former-administration-officials-block-trump-526623

[6] https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/mike-pence-staff-giving-goods-021846346.html

[7] https://www.cnn.com/2021/07/21/politics/nancy-pelosi-rejects-republicans-from-committee/index.html

[8] https://www.cnbc.com/2021/12/07/anti-trump-group-led-by-bill-kristol-hires-lobbyists-to-push-presidential-power-reform.html

[9] https://www.wsj.com/articles/republicans-jan-6-responsibility-anniversary-riot-storm-capitol-trump-protesters-investigation-11641417707

[10] https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2022/01/06/dick-cheney-surprise-visit-capitol-jan-6-riot/9122457002/

[11] https://legacyneuro.com/gettysburg-address/

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Why Are Republicans So Afraid of the Truth?

This week the House Republican and Democratic leaders of the Homeland Security Committee negotiated a deal for a bipartisan, independent commission to investigate the January 6th assault on the Capitol. The agreement made major concessions to the Republicans: the panel would be evenly divided between members appointed by Democrats and Republicans, and the GOP-appointed commissioners would have veto power over any subpoena.[1]

But a balanced commission with veto power wasn’t good enough for the ‘all or nothing,’ uncompromising Republicans. Rep. John Katko, the lead GOP negotiator, urged his colleagues to support the commission bill: “This is about facts. It’s not partisan politics.” Nevertheless, only 35 House Republicans supported the bill while 175 of them voted against it.[2]

Republicans opposed the investigation despite the fact that their lives, as well as their Vice President’s life, were threatened by a deadly mob on January 6th. They argued that the scope of the bill was too narrow and had the potential to interfere with other ongoing investigations. Republicans wanted to dilute the focus on the insurrection by also examining prior violent protests against racism and police brutality, important but unrelated issues.

The truth is Republicans just wish the whole thing would disappear. For them it’s an inconvenient distraction from regaining control of Congress in the 2022 elections. According to Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the minority whip, “Anything that gets us rehashing the 2020 election, I think, is a day lost on being able to draw contrast between us and the Democrats’ very radical left-wing agenda.”[3]

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also opposes the bill because he asserts it’s a Democratic “slanted and unbalanced proposal.” Consequently, it has little chance of gaining the Republican support in the Senate necessary to become law.[4]

In fact, Republican objections to the commission were just another subterfuge to try to sweep the attack on the Capitol under the rug. They reject the investigation because they fear two things: Trump’s supporters and the truth.

Two-thirds of GOP voters still strongly support Trump.[5] The former president forcefully opposes an independent commission investigating the January attack on the Capitol.[6] He also fears the truth.

Republicans who go against Trump are subject to his unrelenting attacks and a primary challenge by a Trump loyalist in their next election.  These officials are more concerned with holding onto their powerful jobs than they are with an attempt to overthrow our government. At the same time, they are afraid of what an investigation might reveal:

  • Did some Republican Congresspeople have prior knowledge of the attack, and/or provide assistance to the insurrectionists?
  • Was the assault planned with aid from Trump?
  • Why were the Capitol police so ill-prepared?
  • Could some Republicans be prosecuted for their roles in the attack?
  • Why was there more than a three-hour delay in reinforcements arriving at the Capitol?
  • Could the commission’s findings result in a backlash against the Republican Party in next year’s election?

Ironically, if Senate Republicans agree with most of their House colleagues and reject establishing an independent commission, they may put their party in an even deeper hole. With no bipartisan investigation, Speaker Pelosi will be free to create a select committee completely controlled by the Democrats.

Pelosi noted that “I certainly could call for hearings in the House with a majority of the members being Democrats, with full subpoena power, with the agenda being determined by the Democrats, but that’s not the path we have chosen to go…” However, she added, “we will find the truth…if they don’t want to do this, we will.”[7]

Sounds like the Democrats are finally getting ready to play hardball.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

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

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


[1] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/january-6-commission-house-approves/

[2] Ibid.

[3] https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/mcconnell-comes-out-against-jan-6-commission-imperiling-its-chances-of-becoming-law/2021/05/19/60de1f52-b8b3-11eb-a5fe-bb49dc89a248_story.html

[4] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/january-6-commission-house-approves/

[5] https://www.vox.com/2021/5/19/22440434/trump-mcconnell-commission-january-6

[6] https://www.cnn.com/politics/live-news/capitol-riot-commission-05-20-21/h_ca6833de0e88f74f757d6c9ebf0c756b

[7] https://www.cnn.com/politics/live-news/capitol-riot-commission-house-vote/h_cf1551703acca4dde8c307afa728c5eb

The Struggle for the Soul of America:

Will the Craziness in the Republican Party Help Dems and

Principled Conservatives Save Our Democracy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

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

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


[1] https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/gop-lawmaker-claims-no-insurrection-193300761.html

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

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

[4] Ibid.

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

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

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

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Are We in a Moment of Transcendence?

Last Tuesday, I celebrated my 76th birthday at Faywood Hot Springs south of Silver City, New Mexico. That morning my partner and I stepped outside our cozy cabin and a royal blue peacock appeared less than 20 feet away. We both felt great joy seeing this majestic creature with its amazing train of gorgeous feathers that had to be over six feet long.

The peacock is a symbol of transcendence and freedom. Encountering a peacock is said to be an omen of going beyond one’s personal boundaries and being “ready to shine out.” Feeling that my life is in a time of major transition, I sensed the appearance of this peacock — on my birthday, no less — was a sign for me to get out of my comfort zone and shift into a brighter, freer state of being. In the coming weeks and months, I believe how I might do this will become clearer.

Then, on Thursday evening, I watched President Biden address a joint session of Congress on national TV. As I listened to Biden, he appeared to have received a transcendent signal similar to the one I had gotten from the peacock. He was moving beyond his previous moderate political boundaries and imploring the American people to support bold, progressive proposals on everything from the economy and infrastructure to education and climate change:

“America is moving. Moving forward. And we can’t stop now. We’re in a great inflection point in history. We have to do more than just build back. We have to build back better.”[1]

In essence, Biden was saying it’s time for the nation to abandon prior theories like “trickle down” economics that had never really worked anyway. Rather, he asserted that the country needed to turn the corner to a more inclusive, optimistic future built from the bottom up.

As a nation, we are finally emerging from the shadows of a debilitating pandemic, a devastating recession, and a draconian administration. While we have not eradicated COVID, the government has made great strides in controlling it with over 230 million vaccinations since Biden took office.[2] In addition, the economy is quickly recovering with 6.4 percent growth in the first quarter of the year fueled by government aid and declining viral cases.[3] Yet, we still have a long way to go to realize the vision of “one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.”

Unfortunately, there are those among us who do not want justice for all or the right to vote protected for everyone. As Biden reminded us in his address:

And if we are to truly restore the soul of America – we need to protect the sacred right to vote. More people voted in the last presidential election than any time in American history – in the middle of one of the worst pandemics ever.
 
That should be celebrated. Instead, it’s being attacked. Congress should pass H.R. 1 and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and send them to my desk right away.[4]

This is America’s moment of truth. Yes, we survived the January 6th attack on our democracy. But if we are to truly transcend racial bigotry and economic injustice, and forge a new era based on fairness and compassion, we must overcome the hate, ignorance and greed that runs rampant in our country. Biden’s proposals are showing us the way. The question is: Do the Senate and the American people have the wisdom and courage to follow his lead?

Bruce Berlin, JD


[1] https://www.nytimes.com/live/2021/04/28/us/biden-speech-congress

[2] https://www.reuters.com/world/us/bidens-first-100-days-covid-19-jobs-foreign-policy-immigration-guns-dogs-2021-04-27/

[3] https://www.politico.com/news/2021/04/29/economy-accelerates-last-quarter-484993

[4] https://mail.google.com/mail/u/1/#inbox/FMfcgxwLtkVTzhlmHssBtdsGmFqLvdWQ

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Racism, the Relentless Cancer Plaguing America

I saw Judas and The Black Messiah the other night. It’s a very disturbing movie that all white Americans should be required to see. The docudrama tells the story of the FBI’s assassination of Fred Hampton, chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panthers in the late ‘60s.

More than that, the film offers insight into the ongoing black struggle for equality and justice in racist America. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was obsessed with eradicating the Black Panther Party.  He stated they were “the greatest threat to internal security of the country.”[1] Yes, the Black Panthers were a militant group, but with rival gangs as well as the FBI after them, they believed they had to arm themselves.

What Hampton and the Black Panther movement were actually fighting for was good healthcare and food security for the black community. In the movie, Hampton proclaims his goal of a healthcare clinic to serve his people on the southside of Chicago. By the end of 1969 — the year Hampton was killed — the Panthers were feeding 20,000 kids in 19 cities across the country before they went to school each morning.[2]

Today the black struggle in America continues in a more political vein. Blacks, like Georgia organizer Stacey Abrams, are working overtime to register and get minorities to the polls. They know that obtaining equality and justice for their people must go through the ballot box. 

At the same time, red state Republicans are fixated on eliminating the power of people of color through gerrymandering, purging voter rolls, reducing access to the polls and other voting restrictions. In truth, it’s all just another form of American racism.

Democrats must call out Republicans for the racists that they are. Republican voter suppression laws like those being proposed in Georgia will have a disproportionately negative impact on blacks and other minorities:[3]

“Georgia legislators also want to end early voting on the Sunday before Election Day. That’s the day parishioners in Black churches traditionally vote. Sheer coincidence, no doubt. Lawmakers want to repeal automatic voter registration, too. They even want to make it a crime to give a bottle of water to someone waiting in line to vote.”[4] 

Republicans claim that these proposals are to protect against voter fraud. However, their real purpose is to make it more difficult for minorities, who overwhelmingly support Democrats, to vote. While Democrats can challenge these new restrictive voting statutes in court, there’s no guarantee they would prevail. And, even if they did, the judicial verdicts would likely come too late to affect the crucial 2022 elections.

In fact, the Democrats only practical remedy is to take the control of Congressional elections out of the hands of state legislatures. That is exactly what H.R. 1, the For the People Act, and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act do.[5] These bills would make our democracy more inclusive and block efforts by state legislators to make it harder to vote.

The bills passed the House without any Republican support. But they will not gain Senate approval unless the Democrats find a way around a guaranteed Republican filibuster steeped in racism. With some Democrats including President Biden still believing in the value of the filibuster, it is not clear how, or if, they will defeat Republican obstructionism.

Will the relentless plague of racism continue to cripple our nation? Or will the Democrats finally stand together, overcome the filibuster and uphold the right to vote for all Americans? It’s time the Democrats did the right thing in order 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/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.vox.com/2016/2/14/10981986/black-panthers-breakfast-beyonce

[2] Ibid.

[3] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/03/us/politics/georgia-voting-laws.html

[4] https://www.commondreams.org/views/2021/03/11/congress-can-stop-these-gop-voter-suppression-laws-cold-it-just-needs-political

[5] Ibid.

The Struggle for the Soul of America: To Save Our Democracy, Defeat Republican Racism

Racism is alive and well in America. And it’s what keeps the Republican Party ticking. Donald Trump, the party’s racist-in-chief, has made sure of that.

But Trump did not initiate GOP racism. In his new book, It Was All a Lie, Stuart Stevens, a life-long Republican operative, illustrates how racism has long been a central theme in the modern GOP playbook.[1] From Goldwater’s opposition to desegregation to Reagan’s “welfare queens” references to Trump’s command to the white supremacists Proud Boys “to stand back and stand by,” Republicans have rallied their supporters with racist rhetoric for decades.[2]

The Republican Party is all about power at any price. Since playing the race card works in America, it has had no problem using racism to build support and gain power. Consequently, over 80% of Republicans are white compared to less than 60% of Democrats, according to the Pew Research Center.[3]

At the same time, the GOP is actually losing a considerable number of its establishment-type followers due to Trump’s lies about the election and his promoting the insurrection against Congress.[4] As a result, the party is now dominated by Trump’s racist base. Anyone who doesn’t fall in line, like the seven Republican senators who voted to convict Trump in his impeachment trial, is censured or labeled a traitor by the party.[5]

Consequently, the GOP has become a racist, immoral cult, that employs anti-democratic tactics to gain control of government. And many red states are now implementing more voter suppression measures targeted at minorities to consolidate power:

“Republicans have introduced some 165 proposals in 33 states this year that would make voting more difficult. These include imposing new voter-identification laws, rolling back access to mail balloting and early-voting periods, and adding new hurdles to the voter-registration process.”[6]

In addition, red state legislatures are using gerrymandering to further solidify their clout. Taking the redistricting process out of the hands of partisan legislatures has never been more critical.

Ron Brownstein’s recent article in The Atlantic (a must read) clarifies just how urgent this matter is and what needs to be done about it. He explains that Republicans “will likely return to power and control politics for the next decade or more,” if the Democratic Congress fails to pass HR 1 and a new Voting Rights Act (VRA) this year:

“Given the likelihood that, absent federal intervention, red states will enact severe gerrymanders and new obstacles to voting, the decision about whether to end the Senate filibuster to pass these two bills could shape the future of American politics more than anything else Democrats do in the next two years.”[7]

Congress should have the COVID relief bill on President Biden’s desk before the end of March. Once that is done, HR 1, the For the People Act,[8] and a strong VRA must be enacted into law before Congress’s August recess. In order to ensure government of, by and for the people, we all must put maximum pressure on Congress and the Biden administration in the coming months. Write or call your senators and representatives and the White House. Attend their town hall meetings this spring. Let’s make our voices heard loud and clear.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

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

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


[1] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/aug/02/it-was-all-a-lie-review-trump-republican-party

[2] https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-09-29/asked-to-condemn-white-supremacists-trump-tells-proud-boys-hate-group-to-stand-by

[3] https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/10/26/what-the-2020-electorate-looks-like-by-party-race-and-ethnicity-age-education-and-religion/

[4] https://www.bostonherald.com/2021/01/13/republican-voters-leaving-party-after-pro-trump-mob-stormed-capitol/

[5] https://www.voanews.com/usa/us-politics/republican-groups-censure-party-lawmakers-who-voted-impeach-convict-trump

[6] https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2021/02/democrats-need-hr-1-and-new-vra-protect-party/617987/

[7] Ibid.

[8] https://www.commoncause.org/our-work/constitution-courts-and-democracy-issues/for-the-people-act/

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