The Struggle for the Soul of America: The Redistricting Conundrum

Redistricting is a red-hot issue this year. Why? Because how states reset their Congressional districts as well as their state legislative boundaries in the coming months will have a critical impact on which party controls Congress and state legislatures for the rest of the decade.

Reforming the redistricting process is one of many reasons why enacting the For the People Act (H.R.1)[1] is essential to ensuring that our elections are fair and competitive. The bill takes redistricting out of the hands of partisan state legislatures by mandating states create independent redistricting commissions to draw Congressional district boundaries.

The measure would prevent both parties from gerrymandering districts favorable to their candidates. However, the Republicans control the majority of state legislatures and, consequently, would have the most to lose with the passage of H.R.1. Right now, many of those Republican legislatures are doing whatever they can to manipulate the electoral process in order to entrench their political dominance.

The most egregious example of GOP power grabbing occurred in Georgia earlier this week. The Republican-dominated State Assembly passed a bill, which Republican Governor Brian Kemp immediately signed, that “gives state-level officials the authority to usurp the powers of county election boards” and effectively change the outcome of an election.[2]

According to one commentator, “the Georgia law is part of a broader wave of GOP efforts, at the state and national level, to undermine the fairness of American elections. What happened in Georgia reveals the true face of the modern Republican Party: a far-right institution that threatens American democracy…”[3]

The For the People Act is the Democrats bold advance to rescue our democracy. It has already passed in the House. Since redistricting will occur in every state this year, the Democratic-controlled Senate must act quickly to eliminate partisan overreaching, as just occurred in Georgia. If the Senate fails to pass H.R.1, the Republicans will likely retake the House of Representatives in the 2022 elections and immediately terminate President Biden’s legislative agenda.

Here in New Mexico, redistricting was a big issue in the just completed 2021 regular legislative session as well. Unlike H.R.1, the N.M. Redistricting Act, SB 304, had bipartisan support. Fortunately, the Act bars a seven-member redistricting committee from considering party registration data in crafting new boundaries. Yet, in making its final decision, the legislature is not required to adopt one of the district maps proposed by the independent committee.[4] Though SB304 is a significant step in the right direction, regrettably, partisan considerations will likely still play a part in the Democratic-controlled legislature’s redistricting efforts.

Thus, H.R.1 is the only equitable solution to the redistricting conundrum. Until independent redistricting commissions are mandated in all 50 states, partisan gerrymandering will continue to unfairly influence our elections. We must urge our senators to support S.1, the Senate version of the For the People Act.

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.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/1/text

[2] https://www.vox.com/22352112/georgia-voting-sb-202-explained

[3] Ibid.

[4] https://www.nmlegis.gov/Legislation/Legislation?Chamber=S&LegType=B&LegNo=304&year=21

The Struggle for the Soul of America: The Curse of the Filibuster

Senate Democrats appear to be damned if they do and damned if they don’t. On the one hand, Mitch McConnell and his Republican colleagues are threatening to utilize the filibuster to block President Biden’s legislative agenda on democratic reform, economic recovery, infrastructure, the environment, social justice and other priorities. If the Democrats don’t curtail or eliminate the filibuster, they will fail to deliver on their campaign promises and surely be defeated at the polls in 2022.

On the other hand, if Senate Democrats do move to override the filibuster in order to pass S. 1, the For the People Act, and other critical initiatives, Sen. McConnell warns he’ll use “procedural moves to grind the chamber to a halt and make current gridlock look like ‘child’s play.’”[1] In which case, the Democrats will also likely fail to deliver concrete results and lose in the 2022 elections.

So, what are Democrats to do? Moderate Democrats, like Biden and Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, are calling for returning to the old “talking filibuster” where senators actually had to stay on the floor and continuously talk to maintain a filibuster.[2] After many hours, the theory goes, the filibustering senators will tire and give up, at which point the proposed legislation would only need a simple majority to pass. Of course, there is no guarantee of their relenting. And the proponents of the measure may be the ones who give up first and withdraw their bill from consideration.

Other Democrats, including moderates like Sen. Amy Klobuchar, are now convinced that eliminating the filibuster is the only solution. She explained that “the likely demise in the Senate of a House voting rights bill had flipped her…to a ‘yes.’”[3]

Trying to find some middle ground, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) is calling for an exception to the filibuster where any bill expanding voting matters would not be subject to the 60-vote cloture requirement.[4] But Sens. Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) have not agreed to that.[5] How can any Democrat believe that the right of 50 Republican senators to filibuster is more sacred than the right of all Americans to vote? What are they thinking?

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking. If the Democrats cannot agree on a way around the filibuster, S. 1 and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act will not pass the Senate. Red states will then have a field day approving voter suppression laws and millions of voters, mostly minorities and youth, will lose the ability to cast their ballots in 2022. The obstructionist Republicans will again control the government. And, the American people’s voting rights and our democracy will be badly wounded, if not outright destroyed.

Earlier this week, Repair Our Democracy issued the following statement:

“Our democracy is under attack, and the For the People Act offers popular, common-sense solutions that will stop the GOP’s assault on voting rights, repair our broken campaign finance system, and root out the corruption that plagues our politics.

"With Democratic control of the White House and Congress, and with support from a vast majority of the American people, it’s time for Senate Democrats to go big on democracy reform. The Senate must move expeditiously to pass this sweeping legislation in its entirety—without delay, without breaking it up, and without the filibuster.

"Recent polling from Global Strategy Group and ALG Research shows that 83 percent of voters support the For the People Act—including 96 percent of Democrats, 74 percent of Republicans, and 73 percent of Independents.”[6]

As concerned citizens, we must all advocate for and put maximum pressure on all Democratic senators to find a way out of this potential disaster. The filibuster does not serve we, the people. Call, email or write your senators today and demand that they come together, override the filibuster and 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.forbes.com/sites/andrewsolender/2021/03/16/mcconnell-threatens-100-car-pile-up-in-senate-if-democrats-nuke-filibuster/?sh=62d7096836a3

[2] https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#inbox/FMfcgxwLswKZkjvTzFRnzmMCSxVDtwJG

[3] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/05/us/filibuster-senate-democrats.html

[4] https://www.vox.com/22260164/filibuster-senate-fix-reform-joe-manchin-kyrsten-sinema-cloture-mitch-mcconnell

[5] https://www.vox.com/2021/3/17/22336181/joe-manchin-filibuster-reform-41-votes-talking-jeff-merkley-senate-rules

[6] https://mail.google.com/mail/u/1/#inbox/FMfcgxwLswLjSXKzPjRKtHlcCbxPwTTq

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: 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: The Disgraced GOP and the Path Forward

In my last blog, I wrote that “the Republican Party will clearly be on trial” at Donald Trump’s impeachment hearing. With Saturday’s vote to acquit Trump, 43 Republican senators failed our democracy and the American people.

During the impeachment trial, the Democrats presented an overwhelmingly convincing case that Trump incited the insurrection against Congress. Earlier in the week, polls showed that 56% of the American people believed Trump should be found guilty, while only 44% thought he should be acquitted.[1] At the same time, however, 69% of Republicans indicated they were less likely to support a senator who votes to convict Trump.[2] That is why self-serving Republican senators voted to protect their re-election prospects rather than preserve American democracy.

On Friday, however, new evidence put that result in doubt. According to Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville, Trump knew in real time that Vice President Pence was in life-threatening danger from the mob attacking the Capitol. But Trump did nothing to protect his vice president or Congress because he was solely focused on halting the certification of the election.[3]

Then, it came to light that Republican House Minority Leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, called Trump while the rioters were trying to break into his office. McCarthy pleaded with Trump to call off the MAGA mob. Lawmakers later briefed by McCarthy indicated that Trump replied, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.” When Trump refused to intervene to stop the riot, McCarthy yelled at him, “Who the f—k do you think you’re talking to?”[4]

None of this mattered to those spineless 43 Republican senators. A great many of them actually believed Trump did incite the insurrection and probably would have voted to convict the former president in a secret ballot. Instead, they hung their vote on a technicality, thus condoning presidential treason in the final weeks in office. These senators claimed it was unconstitutional to try and convict a former president for impeachable offenses even though almost all legal scholars from across the political spectrum found it is constitutional.[5]

So, where does that leave our country today? One of our two major political parties is controlled by Trump loyalists. Representing approximately three-quarters of the Republican Party, they are “enamored with authoritarianism and devoted to one Big Lie after another.” Their party is “antithetical to our Constitution, to fidelity to truth and to a multiracial democracy.”[6]

As a result, the Republican Party is shrinking. In January, nearly 140,000 people in 25 states left the Party.[7] According to a recent Gallup poll, only 37% of Americans now approve of the GOP, down from 43% in November.[8] With the great majority of Senate Republicans voting to acquit Trump, the abandonment of the Party will only grow.

In fact, the anti-Trump wing of the Party is already laying the groundwork for possibly establishing a center-right, third party. Recently, over 120 Republicans met on Zoom “to discuss the breakaway party, including former elected Republicans and government officials who worked under both Bush administrations, Reagan’s administration and even Trump’s administration.” These Republicans are “unhappy with the party’s failure to stand up to Trump’s alleged attempts to undermine democracy.”[9]

Still, the authoritarian wing of the Republican Party has been building for many years. Right-wing Republicans have been gerrymandering Congressional districts, suppressing voters’ rights and using other anti-democratic tactics for decades.

We must strengthen our resolve to defeat this spreading neo-fascism before it is too late. We must demand that Congress pass HB 1, the For the People Act, to protect and expand voter access to the ballot box, reduce the influence of Big Money in politics and other anti-corruption measures to fortify our democracy.[10] Call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 to reach your senators and (202) 225-3121 for your House members.

At the same time, we must amend the Constitution to ensure that another outgoing president who commits impeachable offenses can be tried and held accountable even after he or she has left office.

Honest and open-minded Americans of all stripes, Democrats, Independents and Republicans, must stand up for our democratic values. We must rise above party, come together and protect 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.nytimes.com/2021/02/09/us/politics/trump-polls-impeachment.html

[2] https://www.vox.com/2021/2/10/22276210/trump-impeachment-trial-poll

[3] https://nymag.com/intelligencer/article/tuberville-trump-knew-pence-evacuated-capitol-tweet.html

[4] https://www.yahoo.com/news/mccarthy-snapped-trump-refused-help-000326514.html

[5] https://www.politico.com/f/?id=00000177-2646-de27-a5f7-3fe714ac0000

[6] https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/02/12/stop-trying-save-gop-its-hopeless/

[7] https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/538199-nearly-140000-voters-left-gop-in-25-states-in-january

[8] https://news.gallup.com/poll/329561/gop-image-slides-giving-democrats-strong-advantage.aspx

[9] https://www.forbes.com/sites/roberthart/2021/02/11/report-more-than-120-republicans-in-talks-to-form-anti-trump-political-party/?sh=562b7b524b51

[10] https://legiscan.com/US/bill/HB1/2021

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Can Dark Days Have a Silver Lining?

Wednesday was one of the darkest days in American history. Pro-Trump fanatics stormed the U.S. Capitol, overran an understaffed security force and forced Congresspeople and their staffs to run for cover. Five people died, including a Capitol police officer who supported Trump.[1]

The assault on the Capitol was a result of Donald Trump’s relentless, unfounded claims that the election was stolen and he actually won “by a landslide.” He had urged his supporters to come to Washington on January 6 for a “wild protest” against Congress’ certifying that Joe Biden had won the presidency. Trump implored his legions to march on the Capitol and take back their government.

Two burning questions immediately come to mind out of this horrific event: First, why weren’t the Capitol police better prepared and ready with sufficient backup for this well-publicized protest that was ripe to turn violent? And, second, will Trump and his Congressional rabble rousers be held accountable for this attempted insurrection? It will take weeks, perhaps months, for these and related matters to be resolved.

As ugly and tragic as that day was, I believe there is a silver lining. Trump has been using his false claims of a fraudulent election to keep a hold on his base and to raise funds for his post-presidency undertakings. Those pursuits include preparing for another possible run for the White House in 2024.

After Wednesday’s mayhem, the chances of Trump winning the presidency in 2024 are nil. While some of his base will surely stick with him, Trump’s insurrection was the final straw for many Republicans and Independents. The size of his following as well as the amount of funds in his campaign chest will surely shrink.

In fact, Wednesday’s insurrection increases the possibility that Trump will land in jail. While there was plenty of evidence of his criminal behavior prior to this week, Trump’s attempt to overthrow a legitimate election only adds fuel to the fire of prosecutors seeking to imprison him for his multitude of crimes.

Additionally, Trump has clearly created a deep chasm in the Republican Party that will take a long time to bridge, if ever. The Wall Street Journal, a Republican icon that had long backed the president, called for Trump’s resignation.[2] Others have suggested the formation of a third party to separate themselves from Trump’s Republican Party.[3]

This can only be good news for Biden, the Democrats and the American people. While the new administration’s task come January 20 will not be easy, having a divided opposition may well enable Biden to form a broader coalition to enact his agenda to help our nation. Already some Republicans have renounced their allegiance to the Party. In addition, Independents will be more inclined to favor the new administration. And, of course, the Democrats capturing control of the Senate will be a tremendous help as well.

In turn, this will assist the Democrats in holding onto Congress in 2022 and the White House in 2024. The more they can accomplish for the American people in the next two to four years — whether it’s providing greater COVID relief, creating a living wage or reigniting the economy — the better the odds they will be rewarded at the polls by the voters.

Lastly, Trump’s disgraceful final act has given some Republicans the courage to stand up to him. With his reduced stature, his threats to find primary candidates in 2022 to run against Republicans who crossed him no longer will be the kiss of death. The fear of Trump’s wrath has lost a good deal of its potency.

American democracy has survived a deadly attack. But, let this be a vital lesson: we the people must not let down our guard. We must vigorously protect our democratic institutions and hold accountable those elected officials who do not.

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/brian-sicknick-capitol-police-officer-dies/2021/01/08/5552e036-51bc-11eb-83e3-322644d82356_story.html

[2] https://www.wsj.com/articles/donald-trumps-final-days-11610062773

[3] https://www.denverpost.com/2021/01/07/donald-trump-us-capitol-takeover-gop-split/

The Struggle for the Soul of America: The Promise of the New Year

Happy New Year! Finally, we can put 2020, the most difficult year in memory, behind us. And, while 2021 will present its own set of challenges, at least we can begin the new year on a hopeful note.

The first challenge of 2021 will be the Georgia runoff elections. In less than a week, Georgia voters will determine whether the new Biden administration will have the Senate support it needs to tackle head-on the pressing issues of our country. Hopefully, both Democrats will win, and Biden won’t have his legislative agenda stymied by Mitch McConnell and his Republican obstructionists.

Right now, it’s looking good for the Georgia Democratic candidates. But, even if they win giving the Democrats control of Congress and the White House, at least two other dynamics will influence the degree to which 2021 fulfills its promise.

First and foremost, Biden has to fully grasp the historic moment we are in. It’s fairly comparable to 1932 when Franklin Delano Roosevelt captured the White House from another failed president, Herbert Hoover, in the midst of the Great Depression.

Roosevelt gave the American people a positive vision and hope for a better future. He promised them a ‘New Deal.’ And he delivered by getting people back to work, creating prosperity and protecting their savings, providing relief for the sick and elderly, and getting industry and agriculture back on their feet.

Biden needs to offer the country this type of sweeping vision as well. To lift Americans up in these extremely difficult times and give the country an inclusive path to a brighter future, that promise must include conquering COVID 19, establishing social and racial justice, aggressively confronting the climate crisis, developing a sustainable economy with a living wage for every worker, guaranteeing affordable healthcare for everyone, and ensuring the right to vote for all Americans.

Second and of equal importance, like FDR, Biden cannot succeed on his own. Early in his administration, Roosevelt met with a group of labor leaders regarding their policy recommendations to assist the ailing workforce. FDR agreed with them and allegedly replied: “I want to do it; now make me do it.”[1]

In effect, Roosevelt was saying that “change had to come from the bottom up, not just from the White House.” He was indicating that “he needed the American people to continue pressing for the changes they wanted so he could have the strong backing required to ensure their enactment.”[2]

Now, the American people must press Biden for the changes we urgently need. That is the challenge we must undertake to create the just society we all deserve. So, let’s get to work. It will take all of us to fulfill the promise of 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://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/

[2] Ibid

The Struggle for the Soul of America: A Time for Serious Soul-Searching

While the country dodged an authoritarian bullet by electing Joe Biden as our next president, we are far from out of the woods. This is truly a time for some deep national reflection.

Our country is deadlocked. Almost half of America believes the election was stolen and Donald Trump should be president for another four years. Despite the administration’s massive corruption and self-dealing,[1] over 73 million Americans voted to give Trump a second term. While the president has lost over 30 lawsuits challenging the 2020 election,[2] a great many Americans continue to stand by him.

At the same time, more than 260,000 Americans have died from COVID 19 while Trump has refused to employ the immense powers of the federal government to curb the spread of the virus. As he continues to ignore this public health crisis, millions of Trump’s supporters still believe the virus is a hoax.

Meanwhile, as deaths from the virus continue to mount, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is attempting to undermine Biden’s future efforts to control the pandemic. Mnuchin is placing $455 billion in unspent coronavirus relief funds into an account that requires further congressional authorization to access, even though Congress had previously allocated the funds for emergency relief programs back in March.[3]

Plus, the Senate and House won’t put their differences aside for the good of the country. Once again, they have failed to pass a bill to help the millions who are suffering from the virus or have lost their incomes. Cities and states are also overwhelmed and desperately need federal assistance to keep their public health and other essential services operating.

Why is it so difficult for the country to come together to defeat this terrible common enemy, COVID 19? What don’t we understand? Why are we failing?

Political Science Professor Katherine Cramer at the University of Wisconsin points to a key factor underlying this dilemma. She explains:

There is a deep well of people in this country…who are sure the system is not working for them….(My book explores) the feelings of resentment many rural people in Wisconsin felt toward the urban elite. When Donald Trump won in 2016, partly by tapping into this resentment…I became aware just how surprised many in the cultural elite were about the challenges facing rural communities and the fact that many people living in these places feel they are not getting their fair share of attention, resources or respect. The shock at the closeness of the 2020 race suggests we are still unaware of the depth of this resentment.…What is the infrastructure that allows the hardships of so many to remain invisible?[4]

Mark Bauerlein, professor emeritus of English at Emory University, put it this way:

Ordinary Americans looked at the elite zones of academia, Hollywood, Silicon Valley, Wall Street and Washington itself, and saw a bunch of self-serving, not very competent individuals sitting pretty, who had enriched themselves and let the rest of America slide,…putting the rank and file down for years.

(Trump) pinpointed them as the problem—the reason factories and small stores had closed, unemployment was bad, and PC culture had cast them as human debris. And millions cheered. …The outburst was a long time coming. Trump gave it an outlet, and the scorn for men and women at the top of our country is now widespread and frank. It’s not going to pass any time soon.[5]

John Austin, director of the Michigan Economic Center, offered this solution to the problem:

(U)nless we address the root economic causes of many American voters’ anger and social alienation, we will remain a divided nation, with many remaining susceptible to the message of demagogues like Donald Trump.[6]

But the questions remain: Will Biden and his new Administration really get it? Will the Republicans continue to block progress in addressing these root economic causes?

Are they up to the challenge? To succeed, Sen. Bernie Sanders believes that “Democrats in Congress and the incoming Biden administration ‘must have the courage to take on the powerful special interests who have been at war with the working class of this country for decades.’”[7]

Will they? It is up to us to make sure they do, or we will lose what’s left of our representative democracy to the next populist authoritarian who comes along.

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.republicreport.org/2020/ten-reasons-trump-is-the-most-corrupt-president-in-u-s-history/

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/25/us/elections/trump-campaign-lawsuits.html

[3] https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/11/25/flat-out-sabotage-already-underway-mnuchin-tries-put-455-billion-covid-funds-out

[4] https://www.yahoo.com/news/trump-showed-us-america-005554050.html

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/11/25/prevent-another-right-wing-authoritarian-even-worse-trump-sanders-says-democrats

The Struggle for the Soul of America: All Trump, All the Time

There are two things we know for certain about Donald Trump. First, he hates losing and will do anything to avoid it. And second, he always has to be the center of attention. Both of these egomaniacal traits are now on full display in the aftermath of the election.

If Trump had conceded after Biden was declared the winner on November 7th, the nation’s attention would clearly be focused on president-elect Biden as he chooses his team for the new administration. Instead, we see Trump grabbing headlines by claiming massive fraud, filing multiple lawsuits, firing top officials and putting the country on edge, fearing he could actually pull off a coup. It’s all part of Trump’s narcissistic game: Pay attention to Me, Me, Me all the time.

Trump doesn’t care what his refusal to concede is doing to the country. Time Magazine details how the country is “caught between crisis and confusion.”[1] In truth, Trump is most likely delighting in scaring his political opponents with the threat of a coup. It’s his payback for their rejecting him.

So, is all Trump’s bluster about his inability to accept defeat? Or is it really more about his incapacity to give up center stage? Clearly, both factors are at play. But, as this drama drags on, it appears that it may have more to do with the latter than the former.

In Friday’s New York Times, Maggie Haberman notes: “By dominating the story of his exit from the White House, (Trump) hopes to keep his millions of supporters energized and engaged for whatever comes next.”[2] In fact, Haberman reports that the “president has told some advisers that if the race is certified for Biden, he will announce a 2024 campaign shortly afterward.”[3]

Trump knows that his lawsuits to overturn the election are failing.[4] His highly paid lawyers are abandoning his efforts to destroy the integrity of our elections.[5] Officials in every state, Republican and Democrats alike, have found no evidence of voter fraud.[6] And, finally, some of his Republican colleagues are breaking ranks and acknowledging Biden’s victory.[7] Begrudgingly recognizing that he’s lost, Trump is plotting how to remain the center of attention after he leaves office. No matter what, it’s at the core of his shallow being.[8]

Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if Trump has to be escorted out of the White House on January 20, 2021. That will get him more attention than leaving quietly. It would take some of the spotlight away from Biden’s Inauguration and make Trump’s day. That’s just who he is.

As difficult as this transition period is, a light at the end of the tunnel is beginning to appear. American democracy will survive Donald Trump’s assault.

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://time.com/magazine/europe/.

[2] https://news.yahoo.com/trump-floats-improbable-survival-scenarios-131201231.html.

[3] Ibid.

[4] https://www.npr.org/2020/11/10/933112418/the-trump-campaign-has-had-almost-no-legal-success-this-month-heres-what-they-ve.

[5] https://lawandcrime.com/2020-election/second-major-law-firm-representing-trump-in-election-lawsuits-abandons-ship/.

[6] https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/10/us/politics/voting-fraud.html.

[7] https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2020-election/republicans-who-have-broken-trump-congratulate-biden-his-win-n1247278.

[8] https://qz.com/1141907/donald-trump-tweets-for-attention/.

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Vote Today to Restore Our Democracy

The one good thing that Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell and the Republican Party have done for American democracy in the last four years is expose how utterly broken our political system is.

Here are just a few examples of the president’s abuses of power and failures to properly use the office of the presidency:

  • The president blatantly uses his public office for private gain with impunity.
  • He does nothing to protect the American people from a deadly pandemic while hundreds of thousands of people are dying.
  • He sues to overturn the Affordable Care Act and eliminate healthcare for millions of Americans without providing a viable alternative.
  • He separates thousands of immigrant children from their parents putting many in cages in order to deter other immigrants from crossing the border.

And, McConnell has been the president’s partner in undermining our democratic system:

  • He has single-handily blocked the Senate from voting on hundreds of bills, many of them bipartisan, passed by the House of Representatives.
  • He has prevented the Senate from even considering President Obama’s nominations of over 100 judges.
  • He has rammed through a nomination to the Supreme Court eight days before the election after denying a hearing for another Supreme Court nomination by Obama many months prior to the last presidential election.

Plus, our political system is clearly broken when:

  • It permits a party, the Republicans, to control the U.S. Senate when its senators represent 15 million fewer Americans than Democratic senators do.[1]
  • The Texas Republican governor can reduce drop off boxes for absentee ballots to one per county when one county alone has over four million voters.
  • Voters, mainly non-white, in Republican-controlled states like Georgia, Ohio and South Carolina have to wait in line hours and hours to vote.[2]
  • One party, the Republicans, can uses various legal tactics to suppress the vote.[3]
  • The rights of all our citizens to vote is not protected and they do not have equal access to voting for the officials who govern our country.

Only one candidate for president, Joe Biden, and one party’s candidates for Senate, the Democrats, want to fix our broken political system. If you want our democracy to work for the people rather than for special interests and the very wealthy, go vote for them today. And, urge your friends and colleagues to do the same. The future of our democracy is 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://thinkprogress.org/supreme-court-partisan-gerrymander-electoral-norms-c83345c150b3/.

[2] https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/10/17/long-lines-for-us-early-voting-underscore-hidden-barriers.

[3] https://www.politico.com/news/2020/10/29/trump-suppress-vote-win-433460.