The Struggle for the Soul of America: Joe Manchin, the Filibuster and the Right to Vote

The right to vote is the central principle of American democracy. Yet how representative can a democracy be if millions of its citizens are denied the right to vote through hundreds of state voter suppression laws?[[1]]

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is the only Democratic senator who is not a co-sponsor of S1, the Senate version of the For the People Act.[2] This landmark Act includes, among other provisions:

·    automatic voter registration and other steps to modernize our elections

·    a national guarantee of free and fair elections without voter suppression, coupled with a commitment to restore the full protections of the Voting Rights Act

·    small donor public financing to empower ordinary Americans instead of big donors (at no cost to taxpayers) and other critical campaign finance reforms

·    an end to partisan gerrymandering

·    a much-needed overhaul of federal ethics rules[3]

Most importantly, the Act would thwart virtually every voter suppression bill currently pending in the states.

Manchin supports the right to vote, but he wants the final bill to be bipartisan. Recently, he wrote, “As the Senate prepares to take up the For the People Act, we must work toward a bipartisan solution that protects everyone’s right to vote, secures our elections from foreign interference, and increases transparency in our campaign finance laws.”[4]

In an ideal world, I would agree with Sen. Manchin. But in the real world where Mitch McConnell is the intractable leader of Senate Republicans, bipartisanship is unthinkable. Not only did McConnell call S1 a “solution in search of a problem,” but he also flatly denied that GOP lawmakers were “engaging in trying to suppress voters, whatsoever.”[5]

McConnell and his Republican colleagues choose to ignore the Brennan Center for Justice’s recent report that 361 bills to make it harder to vote have been introduced in 47 states in the first three months of this year, overwhelmingly by Republicans.[6] Still, no Republican senator has indicated any support for the Act.

Carving out an exception to the filibuster for voting rights legislation may be the only way to pass S1 and guarantee the right to vote for millions of Americans. But Manchin asserts that he will not vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster.[7]

The ball is in Manchin’s court. He can stick to his bipartisan demands, in which the Republicans clearly have no interest, and be the senator that allowed Republican voter suppression to cripple our democracy. Or he can join his fellow Democrats in supporting voters’ rights, save our democracy and not let a Republican filibuster stand in the way.

Manchin can’t have it both ways. Write Sen. Manchin at 306 Hart Senate Office Bldg, Washington, DC 20510; call his office at 202-224-3954; or email him using this form: https://www.manchin.senate.gov/contact-joe. Demand that the senator stick with the Democrats and support the right to vote for all Americans.

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.motherjones.com/politics/2021/04/361-voter-suppression-bills-have-already-been-introduced-this-year/

[2] https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-bill/1

[3] Ibid.

[4] https://www.huffpost.com/entry/joe-manchin-for-the-people-act_n_605cc780c5b67593e0569de7

[5] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/for-the-people-act-senate-mcconnell-b1821867.html

[6] https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2021/04/361-voter-suppression-bills-have-already-been-introduced-this-year/

[7] https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/joe-manchin-filibuster-vote/2021/04/07/cdbd53c6-97da-11eb-a6d0-13d207aadb78_story.html

The Struggle for the Soul of America: The Critical Fight to Save Our Democracy

As vital as the COVID relief bill is to the health and wellbeing of the American people, so are the For the People Act[1] and the 2021 Voting Rights Act[2] to the survival of our democracy. On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported:

REPUBLICANS’ WAR on democracy is gaining steam. Unable to persuade a majority of voters to vote for their presidential standard-bearer or Senate candidates in some key races, many have decided that instead of trying to compete in a free and fair vote they will make the contest less free and less fair. Republican state lawmakers are introducing voter-suppression bills all over the country.[3]

On February 8th, the Brennan Center for Justice published its report on Voting Rights. It detailed how serious this war on democracy really is:

In a backlash to historic voter turnout in the 2020 general election, and grounded in a rash of baseless and racist allegations of voter fraud and election irregularities, legislators have introduced well over four times the number of bills to restrict voting access as compared to roughly this time last year. Thirty-three states have introduced, pre-filed, or carried over 165 restrictive bills this year (as compared to 35 such bills in fifteen states on February 3, 2020).[4]

Fortunately, the pro-democracy forces are not idly sitting back and watching these attacks on our right to vote: “To date, thirty-seven states have introduced, pre-filed, or carried over 541 bills to expand voting access (dwarfing the 188 expansive bills that were filed in twenty-nine states as of February 3, 2020). Notably 125 such bills were introduced in New York and New Jersey” alone.[5]

Nevertheless, the odds are against the pro-democracy factions. Republicans control more state legislatures than Democrats do. Those legislatures are now working to gerrymander more than enough Congressional districts to take back the House of Representatives in 2022.[6] If they prevail, the Biden administration will be obstructed by a hostile House from doing almost anything to help the American people. Just like the Republicans did to the Obama administration when they regained the House in 2010 and the Senate in 2014.

This is why enacting HR 1 and the Voting Rights Act this year is critical. These new laws would take redistricting out of the hands of partisan legislatures. HB 1 requires states to adopt independent redistricting commissions for the purpose of drawing Congressional districts.[7]

Voters’ rights would be protected under these new statutes as well. HB 1 prohibits states from restricting an individual’s ability to vote by mail. The bill would also mandate that states make online voter registration available and establish 15 consecutive days of early voting for at least 10 hours a day, among numerous other provisions making it easier and safer to vote.[8]

We must do our part to ensure our rights as voters are protected. Write, call or visit your senators and Congresspeople. Urge them to do whatever it takes to pass these laws before it’s too late. That may mean all 50 Democrats voting to eliminate or alter the filibuster, which the Republicans will surely try to use to block these bills.

Still, the Democrats have an “ace in the hole.” A simple majority of the Senate could “carve out” election-reform legislation from the filibuster. That is the Democrats could vote to exempt any bill that expands voting rights from being subject to a filibuster, which Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) has already proposed. That would preserve the filibuster for all other legislation while allowing Democrats to pass fundamental democratic reforms at a time when democracy has come under attack from the right.[9]

If the Democrats want to save our country from oppressive, minority rule for the foreseeable future, this is the step they must take. The survival of our democracy hangs in the balance.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

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

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


[1] https://democracyreform-sarbanes.house.gov/sites/democracyreform.house.gov/files/SIMPLE-SECTION-BY-SE CTION_H.R.-1_FINAL.pdf

[2]https://www.leahy.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/John%20Lewis%20Voting%20Rights%20Advancement%20Act%20one%20pager.pdf

[3] https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/georgia-voter-suppression-bills-hr-1/2021/02/24/0c283eba-76e7-11eb-9537-496158cc5fd9_story.html

[4] https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/voting-laws-roundup-february-2021

[5] Ibid.

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

[7] https://democracyreform-sarbanes.house.gov/sites/democracyreform.house.gov/files/SIMPLE-SECTION-BY-SECTION_H.R.-1_FINAL.pdf

[8] Ibid.

[9] https://www.vox.com/22260164/filibuster-senate-fix-reform-joe-manchin-kyrsten-sinema-cloture-mitch-mcconnell; https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2021/01/democrats-biggest-decision-nuking-filibuster/617854/

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Time to Grow a Spine, and Fast

About 140 officers were injured in the Capitol riot on January 6, according to reports by police officials and federal prosecutors: “One officer has two cracked ribs and two smashed spinal discs and another was stabbed with a metal fence stake.”[1] Five people died including one police officer. It was a tragic day in American history.

While Trump’s rebellion against our democracy demands that he be convicted at his impeachment trial next month, he most likely will not be. Though many Republican senators might like to vote to convict him, they are too afraid of Trump’s base turning against them and being primaried in their next election. The party of Lincoln has shattered any moral compass it once had. In other words, they have no spine.

Unfortunately, the impeachment trial will in all probability further divide the country. While there may be a few fence-sitters who might be swayed by the actual facts of what happened that day and the weeks leading up to it, everyone on either side of the divide will only get more incensed by the political drama.

That does not mean that the Democrats should not proceed with the trial. Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), the majority whip, explained, “We need to make a record — a record of fact, not just for our current deliberations, but for history.”[2]

While the senators are the sworn jurors, it is the American people who will ultimately decide Trump and the Republican Party’s fate. For that, we need the whole truth presented in a nationally televised trial.

The Democrats must clearly and convincingly demonstrate to the nation that Trump tried to overturn a free and fair election by inciting insurrection against Congress and the U.S. Constitution. If Senate Republicans fail to uphold the Constitution and convict him, then the party will lose even more voters than the tens of thousands who have already deserted it.[3]

I believe the Democrats will make their case. “This is much, much more serious than anything we’ve ever seen in our lifetime and it’s really the purpose of having articles of impeachment in the Constitution,” noted conservative-leaning Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).  “We want to make sure that no one ever does this again, never thinks about doing this again — sedition and insurrection.”[4]

There’s still a slim chance that the Senate will find a way to bridge the gulf between the two sides. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) is proposing a bipartisan resolution that he believes would have much the same effect as a conviction. It would condemn Trump and lay the foundation to keep him from becoming president again under the terms of the 14th Amendment.

Section 3 of the amendment holds that no government official can hold office “who, having previously taken an oath…to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.” [5]

Kaine’s resolution would only require a majority vote of the senators. The question is would such a resolution without a conviction be upheld when Trump ultimately challenges it in the Supreme Court.

If the Senate votes not to convict Trump, it will, once again, expose the Republicans’ moral bankruptcy, further tearing the party apart. Trump will continue to lead his diminished base, while President Biden and the Democrats will work tirelessly to unify the rest of the country around their agenda to eradicate the pandemic and put America back to work. But they will only have about 20 months before the 2022 election to do it.

The Democrats must grow a spine and move swiftly to enact their bold program. They must demonstrate to the American people that their policies are working for the common good and that the country is getting back on the right track. Only then will the ultra-conservative, immoral wing of the Republican Party lose its power to retake the government. It’s up to all of us to see that the new administration succeeds, democracy prevails, and Trump is banished once and for all.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

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

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


[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/police-union-says-140-officers-injured-in-capitol-riot/2021/01/27/60743642-60e2-11eb-9430-e7c77b5b0297_story.html

[2] https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/democrats-consider-impeachment-alternatives-censure/2021/01/27/fdfd9b6c-60bd-11eb-afbe-9a11a127d146_story.html

[3] https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/536113-tens-of-thousands-of-voters-drop-republican-affiliation-after-capitol

[4] https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/democrats-consider-impeachment-alternatives-censure/2021/01/27/fdfd9b6c-60bd-11eb-afbe-9a11a127d146_story.html

[5] Ibid.

The Struggle for the Soul of America: The Republicans Who Stole Christmas

It’s Christmas, and the coronavirus relief bill is in limbo. While Congress is getting what it deserves – an 82% disapproval rating[1] – tens of millions of Americans are not getting the help they so desperately need.

For months, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has held up any substantial support for all those suffering due to no fault of their own. The pandemic has crushed the economy, exploded unemployment rolls, killed small businesses and crippled public services. Yet, McConnell, the head Senate Scrooge, refused to budge unless large corporations got another government handout shielding them from liability for failing to provide proper Covid-19 safety measures for their employees:

McConnell has insisted that Congress should take action to protect corporations that are alleged to engage in wrongdoing and endanger their employees, consumers and patients. Companies that don’t provide protective equipment or mandate physical distancing in the workplace, for example, would face no civil liability when their workers become sick…Even as Americans go hungry and confront homelessness, McConnell is trying to leverage the coronavirus emergency to greenlight corporate abuse, instead of helping vulnerable families.”[2]

Meanwhile, House Republicans have rejected President Trump’s proposal of $2000 to individuals as part of a coronavirus financial aid package, instead of the $600 agreed to earlier that “Trump criticized as too meager.”[3] How ironic that Trump is now the voice of reason.

And, if that weren’t enough, Georgia Republicans are doing whatever they can to ensure McConnell maintains his stranglehold on Congress and the government’s purse strings. With control of Georgia’s election process, they are now up to their old devious tricks: closing early voting locations and purging voter rolls to prevent Democratic leaning voters from casting their ballots in the January 5th runoff election which will determine who controls the Senate.[4]

While there are no easy answers to the deep divisions and injustices confronting our country, we are in the season of good will, something the Republican Party seems to know little about. Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and other holidays this time of year focus on restoration, unity, hope and promise for one and all. As the new year approaches, we must keep these ideals foremost in our minds.

Even more than that, we must work together to put these ideals into practice in our communities, our work, our elections and throughout our country.  Let us vow to ourselves and each other that we shall overcome in the new year.

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.gallup.com/poll/1600/congress-public.aspx

[2] https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/covid-stimulus-bill-held-hostage-mcconnell-over-corporate-get-out-ncna1251176

[3] https://www.marketwatch.com/story/house-republicans-block-bill-for-2-000-stimulus-checks-defying-trump-11608819760?mod=mw_more_headlines

[4] https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/12/24/civil-rights-groups-denounce-georgia-officials-closing-early-voting-sites-ahead; https://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/12/15/georgia-it-will-be-voter-turnout-vs-gop-voter-suppression

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Going Within

My small neighborhood community in Mineral Hill outside of Las Vegas, NM, recently decided “going within” one day a week would be a valuable endeavor in these trying times when we are constantly being bombarded by outside stimuli. After one day of “going within,” I knew we were on to something.

On Wednesday I spent the day “going within.” No phones, no computers, no TVs, no interaction with anyone except for essential communication with my partner. In the morning I took stock of where I am right now. I wrote in my journal that “I’m feeling pretty good about my life.” That includes my relationships with my partner, my daughter and good friends; my health, my new home, my community, and even this blog. As I wrote, I realized how grateful I am for all that is going well in my little world.

During my afternoon of introspection, I recognized how clever it was of mother nature to require humanity to take a time out. I noted in my journal that “this is an incredible opportunity for me, everyone who has stopped the routine he or she normally follows, and the country as a whole, to go within.”

The next day a good friend called. I learned that a mutual friend of ours had suddenly become seriously ill and was taken to the hospital. Apparently, he was near death.

It was a true wake-up call. How quickly our lives can change. I was reminded how important it is to live each day to its fullest.

This led me to ask: How are we doing as a society? Why have we gotten so divided? Why can’t we live together? Why are people so driven to get as much as they can for themselves with no or little concern for how the less fortunate among us who are hurting, hungry, some homeless, are getting by or not?

It’s time for us to take a long, hard look at ourselves and our country. How can we inspire our country to live up to its honored values and highest potential for all Americans? We are in the midst of a spiritual crisis, as well as a health crisis and an economic crisis. Our country is at a moral crossroads: Will we take the highway to a better life for all, or the low road where it’s each one out for one’s self? This is the question we will answer in the fall election. But we can’t wait. Now is the time we must pave the way for a brighter, more equitable society.

By going within during this slowdown period, we have the opportunity to re-evaluate our nation’s priorities. Since we don’t have the national leadership to provide support and guidance in these troubled times, it’s up to us to find our way together.

We have many ways to get involved. Unite America (https://www.uniteamerica.org/) is working to make voting secure and accessible during COVID-19. When We All Vote (https://www.whenweallvote.org/) is focused on expanding vote-by-mail, early voting and online voter registration. Here in New Mexico, we can work on issues to revive our democracy with New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics (https://nmmop.org), Retake Our Democracy (https://retakeourdemocracy.org/), Common Cause New Mexico (https://www.commoncause.org/new-mexico/), or a number of other non-profit organizations.

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: The Coronavirus Opportunity

According to an ancient Chinese proverb, “In every crisis, there’s opportunity.” As individuals as well as members of our communities and our country, the coronavirus crisis has given us a rare opportunity.

These are challenging times for all of us. A great many Americans have been isolated at home for the last month or more, held hostage by the coronavirus, COVID-19. Now that our busy schedules have been put on hold, we each have the time to really stop and re-examine our lives.

We might ask ourselves, what’s truly important to me? Life being so uncertain, how can I be more present and appreciate each passing moment? What can I do from now on to more closely align my life with my true purpose, my heart’s desires? In the BTC era (“Before the Coronavirus”), many of us were too wrapped up in our careers, our social lives, our next “whatever,” to go within and give these questions the serious consideration they deserve. Now this may be the most meaningful way to spend our time.

Being isolated, I am finding that my relationship to dear friends and loved ones is what I most value. I am learning to reach out in new ways, like Zoom, to stay bonded with them as well as to reconnect with old friends and family with whom I have lost touch. And, I am also missing my connection to Mother Earth. I yearn to be in the mountains again.

What do you value most?

This coronavirus-imposed isolation is also providing me with the opportunity to explore my relationship to my community. How could I better serve my community? How might it better serve me? What can I do to help make my neighborhood and town more livable for everyone? Once we have given these questions some considerable attention, we could meet, perhaps on Zoom, and start a dialogue. Together we can develop a common vision and a plan to implement it.

Finally, COVID-19 has given our country an extraordinary opportunity. We are quite aware of how divided our nation is. Yet, this crisis has brought people of all backgrounds, political persuasions, income levels and ethnicities together to fight this common enemy. Whether it’s medical professionals in hospitals, drivers delivering groceries or technicians ensuring our electricity stays on, people are risking their lives to provide care and support for all of us. When everyone works together, we are all better off. Can we carry this lesson forward to heal our country in the weeks and months ahead?

Our nation has numerous problems. It is not working well for many Americans. A great number of us don’t have good, if any, affordable healthcare. We know climate change is threatening to devastate our planet, but we are not doing much about it. Too many people in this country, especially children, go to bed hungry every night. In the wealthiest country on Earth, millions of us don’t make a living wage. Women and people of color are discriminated against and not treated as equal citizens. Alcohol and drug addiction run rampant across our nation, as does gun violence. Big money and huge corporations control government policies to the detriment of most Americans. And, the list goes on.

At this critical juncture in our history, we must not go back to the way things were before the pandemic crisis struck. We are learning that we can work in unison for the good of the country regardless of our differences. As we progress in conquering COVID-19, we must use this singular experience to inspire us. Together we can reshape our country into one that serves the common good, not just the interests of the well-connected and the very wealthy. World War II was a comparable national crisis that brought all Americans together to defeat a common enemy. Just like after that hard-fought victory, we must grab this opportunity to create a new vision of America and remake our country.

Bruce Berlin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bruce Berlin

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

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Lessons from the Grand Canyon

Rafting the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon with my 22-year old daughter, Gioia, stirred my soul like only peak experiences can. For five days last month we were immersed in the Canyon’s magnificence, completely cut off from the outside world. What a gift! Engulfed in a timeless hallowed space, every moment felt sacred.

Captivated by this ancient canyon, I began to discern a deeper perspective on life in our country as well as on planet Earth. We, Americans, are such a tiny spec of history. Nearly two billion years old, the Grand Canyon opens up a most profound lens from which to examine our lives.

In the 100+ degree, dry heat of the Canyon, life is truly precious. Everyone on our voyage (24 people in six rafts) looked out for each other’s health and safety. We made sure we all had enough drinking water, sunscreen and protective clothing. Running the rapids, we paddled in harmony to avoid being capsized by the five-foot or greater waves crashing over us. Hiking in the Canyon, we extended a helping hand to one another as we climbed up steep granite rocks. We understood our welfare, perhaps even our lives, depended on our mutual support.

Outside the Canyon, however, Americans don’t often hold that belief. Yes, we have our communities and neighborhoods where people work cooperatively to plant gardens or watch out for burglars. But, generally, Americans like to go their own way, the preferred choice of a private vehicle over mass transit being the textbook example. Moreover, we think we know best and distrust those with contrary opinions. Consequently, we are less inclined to engage with others outside our familiar circles to develop more inclusive solutions to a communal issue. Frequently, it takes an immediate crisis for most Americans to pull together for the common good.

This phenomenon is plainly evident in our nation’s current politics. While both the country’s healthcare system and infrastructure, among other major concerns, badly need improving, our politicians are too tied to their respective parties, not to mention their big money donors, to work together on broad-based answers to these problems. After many months of bickering, it took the disaster of Hurricane Harvey and the pending Hurricane Irma catastrophe for Congress to finally pass meaningful legislation to assist the American people.

While many factors determine our actions and attitudes, one influence appears to stand out when I reflect on my unifying experience in the Grand Canyon compared to the more diffuse, often divisive, atmosphere in the rest of our country and the world. It’s the sacred space of the Canyon that made all the difference.

In the depths of the Canyon, there were no competing voices. No TV commercials. No op-eds. No Big Money influencing one’s views. Not even any bills to pay or emails to answer. There was nothing between the grandeur of the Earth, our precious home, and me. Yet, that space was not empty. It overflowed with Spirit, and filled my heart and soul.

I wonder what it would take for each of us to rise above all the noise and confusion of our modern world and live in that sacred space where unity, the common good, was our primary goal. Of course, that’s a huge challenge. But if we each took it on, I’m certain our country, as well as the planet, would be so much better off. Are you willing to give it a try?

An Open Letter To President-Elect Trump

Dear President-Elect Trump,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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