The Struggle for the Soul of America: Is It All About Being Safe?

America is in panic mode. The coronavirus is spreading rapidly. The stock market is plunging. Oil prices are collapsing. And, our president plays golf while the country is falling apart. Meanwhile, Americans are dying and the rest of us are pretty scared. What are we to do?

The best advice seems to be: play it safe. People are taking various precautions: avoiding crowds, canceling travel plans, working from home, keeping their kids home from school, washing their hands frequently, using hand sanitizer, wearing face masks – getting out of the stock market – whatever one can do to be safe.

Politically, the Democrats have turned to Joe Biden to be their presidential nominee. They believe he is their safe choice. “Uncle Joe” has been around for a long time. The American people know Joe. They contend that we can trust him to do the right thing and keep America safe. The Democrats consider Biden to be their safe bet to beat Trump next November.

According to conventional wisdom, nominating Bernie Sanders is too risky. Democrats see Sanders as too radical for American voters. They believe the people would reject his democratic socialism which offers Medicare for all, free public college, a living wage and the wealthy paying their fair share in taxes, among other things. This despite the fact that a majority of Democrats support many of Sanders’ policy positions. (See https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2020/feb/25/pete-buttigieg/polls-show-most-democrats-many-americans-back-key-/.)

Sanders contends that his policy proposals will bring a huge wave of new voters to the polls. However, primary results have not proven him right. Biden has won most of the recent primaries with his more centrist policy agenda and his more moderate tone.

Consequently, as a longtime Bernie supporter, I’m beginning to realize that it’s not only his policies that is the problem for some Democrats. It’s also the messenger. It’s Bernie.

Bernie yells a lot. That makes some people feel afraid, not safe. He might be more effective with the voters he needs to persuade if he modulated his tone a bit.

Bernie has praised some aspects of Communist Cuba.  That makes some people, especially in the vital swing state of Florida, afraid, not safe. He had nothing to gain politically and much to lose by bringing Cuba into the campaign debate.

Bernie has grand proposals with little detail of how they will be paid for. That makes some people feel afraid, not safe. He could be more specific about the financial aspects of his policies.

Bernie does not have much support in Congress, which raises the issue of whether he will be able to muster the votes in Congress to pass his initiatives, particularly in the Senate where he will need to overcome Republican filibusters. That makes some people feel afraid, not safe. His campaign could have cultivated more Congressional backing for his proposals to demonstrate his ability to work with Congress on his agenda.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Bernie calls himself a Democratic socialist without clearly explaining what he means by that term. That makes some people feel afraid, not safe. He has failed to simply and plainly demonstrate to the American people that the United States already is, to a significant degree, a democratic socialist country. Most Americans support Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, the federal highway system, public schools, the police and fire departments, and many other government programs, all of which are democratic socialism since they are funded by taxpayers’ dollars for the common good. Moreover, federal farm subsidies, oil subsidies and the like are also democratic socialism at work. If the American people understood that they already support and believe in democratic socialism, then they would probably not be afraid of it.

That is not to deny that the corporate media, the Democratic establishment, Big Money and others desperate to hold onto power, have done their utmost to bring Sanders down. Nevertheless, Bernie has made a number of serious missteps. If he had been a better messenger, a better politician, I believe he could have been our next president.

What do you think? Is it too late for Bernie to make up for his mistakes? Is there anything he can do at this point to improve his chances of winning the nomination? Any and all comments are greatly appreciated.

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: Can the Democratic Party Avoid a Train Wreck?

The Super Tuesday election results effectively narrowed the Democratic primary race to Joe Biden versus Bernie Sanders. While Elizabeth Warren has not withdrawn from the race at this point, she does not appear to have any realistic path to the nomination.

The Democratic Party is deeply divided between its moderate insider, establishment wing and its progressive outsider, anti-establishment wing. If the Party cannot figure out how to bring these two factions together, it may very well be headed for a train wreck at its July convention. Such an outcome would be a disaster for the Democrats, and, most likely, hand Donald Trump the keys to the White House for a second term. That, in turn, would leave our American democracy in shambles. So, how can the two factions unite and avert a train wreck?

A major step toward unity would be for Tom Perez, the chairman of the DNC, to call a summit meeting in the next month. The sooner the better. Perez should invite the campaign chairs of the remaining viable candidates, including Elizabeth Warren, assuming she was still in the race at the time of the meeting. President Obama, Senator Schumer and Speaker Pelosi should also be strongly encouraged to attend.

The purpose of the meeting would be to develop an agreed upon strategy for uniting the Party regardless of who wins the nomination. While this may not be easy to achieve, having an agreement in advance of the convention before tempers flare and a blowup occurs would be in everyone’s best interests.

Here are some suggestions for an agreement signed by all the candidates that, I believe, would greatly assist in uniting the Party:

  1. The candidates and their campaigns promise to work to unite the Party in coordination with the other wing.
  2. The candidates and their campaigns promise to run positive campaigns that focus on their own achievements, attributes and ability to defeat Trump. They promise not to run negative ads against their primary opponents that could raise fears or doubts about those candidates which could be used by the Trump campaign in the general election.
  3. The candidates and their campaigns promise not to say or imply that any other candidate cannot beat Donald Trump in the general election.
  4. The candidates and their campaigns promise to make uniting the Party a major piece of each of their campaigns for the remainder of the race.
  5. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the candidates promise that whoever wins the nomination will nominate for vice president a person from the other branch of the Party. By effectively creating a coalition ticket, this will go a long way toward unifying the Party. It will also demonstrate a sincere desire to work together to find common ground between the two wings. A major failure of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 candidacy was her nominating Sen. Tim Kaine for vice president, another moderate. By doing so, she lost some energy and commitment from the progressive wing of the Party, which could have helped her win the election.

Other pieces could be added to such an agreement. But some compact along these lines needs to be made very soon. For the Democrats to be in the strongest position to win the election, they have to come together and produce a huge voter turnout. If the Party does not find a way to truly unite, it will be seriously weakened come November.

Write, call or email DNC Chair Tom Perez  (202) 863-8000/ https://democrats.org/contact-us/; Democratic leader Sen. Chuck Schumer,(https://www.schumer.senate.gov/contact/email-chuck, US Capitol switchboard (202) 224-3121); and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (https://www.speaker.gov/contact, House of Representatives switchboard 202-225-3121) and urge them to convene a summit to develop a unity strategy. For the good of the country and the planet.

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 Democrats Must Unite Now!

It’s hard to determine which Democratic candidate has the best chance of defeating Donald Trump in November at this point in the primaries. Since the Democrats’ overriding goal is to beat Trump, it’s even harder to understand why so many mainstream Democrats are bashing Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Party’s current leading contender.

Many Americans believe that a second Trump term could be the end of democracy in the United States. According to Truthout, “there’s an actual (Republican) project to rewrite our Constitution, turning America into a corporate-run oligarchy.” See https://www.truthdig.com/articles/trumps-reelection-could-spell-the-end-of-american-democracy/.

Nevertheless, if Sanders gets the nomination, some observers presume that the Democratic Party will “hope that Bernie Sanders gets destroyed by Donald Trump, and then wag their fingers at the left for the next 20 years until they get another Bill Clinton.” See https://www.truthdig.com/articles/the-clinton-machine-will-do-anything-to-stop-bernie-sanders/.

It’s difficult to imagine that the Democratic Party would really rather endure four more years of Trump with the likelihood of the destruction of our democratic republic than a populist Sanders presidency promoting many of the ideals that the Democratic Party has long stood for. But, for a fair number of centrist Democrats that appears to be the case.

The Party seems to think that a more moderate candidate like Biden, Buttigieg, Klobuchar or Bloomberg would have a better chance of winning the Whitehouse than Sanders or Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the other progressive still in the race. Party leaders conveniently forget that all the Party’s recent presidential defeats were led by more centrist establishment Democrats like Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Al Gore. The only recent Democratic presidential winner was Barack Obama, a relative outsider who excited millions of Americans with his message of “hope and change.”

Could it be that the Democratic establishment is more concerned with maintaining control of the Party than with beating the want-to-be autocrat Trump? Is the party establishment not much different than the Republicans in that it is willing to put party over country? If Sanders wins the nomination, will the Party give its full support to its nominee for the good of the country, or sit on its hands because it didn’t get its way? Which is exactly what the Party fears Sanders’ supporters will do if he doesn’t get the nomination.

The truth is the American people are fed up with Washington insiders from both parties who are more interested in advancing their party and serving Wall Street and their Big Money donors, than they are in supporting Main Street and the concerns of average Americans. Outsider Trump got elected, in large part, because he ranted against the Washington swamp and empathized with angry blue-collar workers ignored by both parties.

The only way Democrats win this November is with a candidate that will motivate voters to turn out in record numbers. Clearly, Trump is a very flawed candidate, but he does have a good economy, a corrupt Republican Party and a strong base behind him. Republicans will purge voter rolls, reduce polling locations and do whatever else they can to ensure Trump is declared the winner.

Consequently, the Democratic presidential candidate cannot just rely on anti-Trump sentiment to take back the White House. Many regular Democrats failed to vote in 2016 because Hillary Clinton did not inspire them. She did not have a clear, strong inclusive message that grabbed voters. Hundreds of thousands of Obama voters in Philadelphia, Detroit and Milwaukee stayed home which gave Trump his margin of victory. Contrary to Clinton’s allegations, Sanders was not responsible for Hillary’s losing the election.

Bottom line: the establishment Democrats and the progressive Democrats, the centrists and the leftists, must come together now. Not after a huge convention fight in July which will likely result in more bitterness and divisiveness, leaving the Party with a great self-inflicted disadvantage going into the general election. Today, every Democrat must loudly and clearly declare that “we are all in this together” and that we will all wholeheartedly support whomever demonstrates he or she has the people’s support by winning the primaries. And, the Democratic National Committee must vigorously promote that strategy right away.

To win in November, the Democrats must unite now under the common purpose of defeating Trump and taking back our country. As concerned citizens, we all must do whatever we can to help make that happen. Here’s what you can do:

Call, write and/or visit your Democratic county and state party leaders.

Call, write and/or visit your elected Democratic Representatives (202-224-3121) and Senators (Toll free 866-338-1015).

Demand that the Democratic moderates and progressives come together for the good of our nation. Divided we fall. United we win.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Moneys 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/how-to-unite-the-democratic-party/blog/. Join the unstoppable movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Never Give Up!

“Never give up. No matter what is going on around you. Never give up,” counsels the Dalai Lama.

We are in very perilous times. Donald Trump just had the best week of his presidency. Except for Mitt Romney, the Republican Senate stuck together and found Trump “not guilty” in his impeachment trial, while the Democrats couldn’t even competently conduct the Iowa state caucus. The stock market is at an all time high. Though the economy is quite good for those at the top, a great many Americans have seen little benefit from it. Unemployment is low, but wages have not kept pace. Trump has his highest poll ratings ever and he’s feeling pretty invincible, an autocrat in the making.

I feel we are living in a period somewhat comparable to 1933 Germany, the year the democratically elected Reichstag relinquished its constitutional authority and power to Hitler and the Nazis. That is effectively what the Republican senators did when they found Trump not guilty of abusing his power. Now he feels free to use the presidency for whatever scheme will further his own personal and political interests. Like many Americans, I’m angry and nervous, and getting more so day-by-day.

How could it have come to this? Where did we go wrong? And, what do we do now to save our country from this criminal egomaniac who believes he can do whatever he wants and be president for life?

It’s this last question that we need to focus on: What do we do now to ensure Trump is not re-elected in November? Here’s a few suggestions:

First, don’t panic. It’s alright to be afraid and in despair about the state our nation is in. Express your anger, fear, disgust, whatever, but please don’t let it get the best of you. Your fellow Americans need you to keep it together and fight for what’s right. Your country needs you.

Second, don’t be fooled by all the misinformation and lies coming from Trump, or, for that matter, from the Democrats. The fact that a partisan Senate failed to hold Trump accountable does not make the serious charges against him a “hoax.” Nor, does the Democratic establishment’s efforts to bash Sen. Sanders mean he would be trounced by Trump in the general election. See https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/02/11/sanders-crushes-trump-18-points-among-independent-voters-new-national-general.

Third, believe in yourself and the goodness of others. We have the wisdom, the strength, the compassion and the understanding to get through this. Do not give up hope. Remember America survived the Civil War and overcame Nazi Germany.

See https://www.wbur.org/cognoscenti/2020/02/05/trump-impeachment-acquittal-steve-almond fbclid=IwAR3UN7ipM1dem8nqeZy4aelzW4DnpEGt4iLkpOqoQNx9_XvDwhQ5Re7FMlI.

Fourth, allow your feelings to be a positive motivating force to move you to constructive action. Find something that you believe can help make a difference. If it doesn’t work, try something else. Become a voter registrar. Join an organization working to root out corruption and make our elections fair. Support a candidate you believe can beat Trump. Get involved in the struggle for the soul of America. Taking action is good therapy for disillusionment.

Fifth, connect with your fellow Americans. We are all in this together. Don’t isolate yourself. Defeating Trump and his cohorts requires that we work together. We need to build a huge movement that is “too big to fail.”

Finally, heed the Dalai Lama’s advice: “Never give up. No matter what is going on around you. Never give up.”

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Moneys 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/how-to-unite-the-democratic-party/blog/. Join the unstoppable movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Don’t Let Them Steal the Election Again!

Our government is failing us. We can rightly place a good deal of the blame on Mitch McConnell and the senate Republicans who orchestrated the sham impeachment trial of President Trump, refusing to allow any witness testimony or documental evidence. While the outcome would most likely have remained the same, the American people had a right to see and hear all the evidence. In truth, the trial was a cover-up and the Republicans should be ashamed of themselves.

However, there’s plenty of blame to go around for our deteriorating democracy. Just last month we marked the tenth anniversary of the infamous Citizens United decision which opened the floodgates of dark money into our political system. We can thank the U.S. Supreme Court for that punch in the gut to our democratic principles.

But don’t think it’s all a conservative Republican conspiracy that’s killing our democratic republic. While President Barack Obama’s policies saved the country from near economic collapse, his refusal to prosecute the Wall Street bandits who brought down the economy effectively gave the perpetrators of the 2008 Great Recession the greenlight to do it again. Consequently, many blue-collar Obama voters turned to Trump in 2016, believing he would clean up the Washington swamp and protect them from further Wall Street corruption.

And, don’t forget President Bill Clinton, who abandoned FDR’s Glass-Steagall Act, which had put a firewall between commercial and investment banking for some 66 years. When Clinton agreed to take down that wall, he opened the door wide to overzealous investing. This led to the fraudulent Wall Street practices which, in large part, contributed to the 2008 economic collapse.

Al Gore and the Democratic Party also played a role in our national downfall when they conceded the 2000 election and failed to support the Congressional Black Caucus’s legitimate challenge to Florida’s fraudulent Electoral College delegation. We paid for Gore’s lack of bold leadership and the Democrats’ timidity with eight years of George Bush and the disastrous Iraq War.

Nevertheless, there is a fundamental difference between these major political decisions. While the Democrats have made serious political and policy miscalculations, their inclination has been to put country over party. Gore conceded the 2000 election for the good of the country. Obama focused on restoring the economy rather than punishing the bankers, believing it was for the common good.

Republicans, on the other hand, often favor party over country in their continuous onslaught to control the government. The Republican senate’s sham impeachment trial protecting their party’s president from the country’s right to the truth is just the latest illustration.  Moreover, the Republican Party has been stealing our elections through voter suppression, voter registration purges and other election manipulations for more than 100 years. Their thirst for power increasingly takes precedence over upholding fundamental American principles of fairness and equality upon which our nation was founded.

For example, in 2019 alone, the Republican-controlled state of Ohio purged nearly 500,000 voters, most of them suspected Democrats. The Democratic Party failed to prevent the purge, and is on course to lose this critical swing state yet again. According to  & Truthout (See https://truthout.org/articles/election-theft-is-a-120-year-tradition-lets-end-it-this-year/), “the corporate Democrats did win the presidency in 2000, 2004 and 2016. Each time they walked away without a word (except to blame the left). The Gore, Kerry and Clinton campaigns all were shafted by the GOP stripping the voter rolls and flipping electronic vote counts. But instead of fighting to change the basic nature of our electoral system, they have blamed the left — and left the machinery of theft in place. So the same pattern of fraud and deceit that cost the Democrats three of the last five presidential elections could strike again in 2020.

“Put simply, since the theft of Florida 2000, the Democrats have failed to protect the vote, failed to provide reliable voting machines and failed to abolish the Electoral College — all of which could enthrone Donald Trump in 2020….

“Officially decided by 537 votes, the 2000 election in Florida was turned by Gov. Jeb Bush’s stripping of more than 90,000 people allegedly with felony convictions (the vast majority of them people of color) from the voter rolls, disenfranchising them using a law from the former Confederacy…. But Ralph Nader is still being blamed for the Democrats’ defeat.”

We must not allow this to happen again. Join the grassroots movement at the Transformative Justice Coalitionvote.org, and rockthevote.org fighting to protect our 2020 elections.  If our democratic republic is to survive, it is up to all of us to ensure that this movement succeeds.

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.

Please share this blog on Facebook, other social media and with your email lists. Subscribe to the blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/how-to-unite-the-democratic-party/blog/. Let’s connect and build an unstoppable movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.

 

Where Are the Democrats?

While Donald Trump and the Republicans struggle to pass any meaningful legislation, there is one thing they know how to do well. That is, grab the public’s attention in order to enlarge and intensify their base of support.

            Long before he declared his candidacy for president, Trump was in the spotlight claiming Barak Obama was not a legitimate president, falsely asserting Obama was a Muslim born in Kenya. At the same time, House Republicans, though they knew they didn’t have enough support in the Senate, voted again and again to repeal the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, in a very visible effort to sabotage the president’s signature piece of legislation and rally their base.

            Now the shoe is on the other foot, so to speak. Trump is in the White House and the Republicans control Congress. But where are the Democrats? Yes, they rolled out their “Better Deal” package of economic reforms back in July,1 but how many Americans even remember that three months later, let alone got excited by it then?

            Since Trump became president, there have been a multitude of speeches, tweets and decisions that the Democratic Party could have pounced on to galvanize support for its fight for everyday Americans of all races and ethnicities. Trump’s failure to unequivocally denounce the white supremacists’ march in Charlottesville is a primary example. Another is his ongoing feud with gold star families who have lost loved ones serving our country. Yet another is Trump’s use of the presidency for his personal financial gain in violation of the Constitution. And then, there’s the Republican Party’s bankruptcy of values in their continuing to back Trump, knowing he is utterly unfit to be president.2

            So, where are the Democrats, the “opposition party,” when our country desperately needs them? Why haven’t they risen to the occasion?

            The sad truth is the Democratic Party does not have the courage, boldness or vision to overcome Trump and his Republican cronies. Since Obama was elected president, the Democrats have lost over 1,000 elected positions across the country. Rather than offering Americans a visionary agenda that would inspire their base and draw in new voters, party leaders like Nancy Pelosi timidly stick to the center of the political spectrum despite polls that indicate the majority of Americans want more progressive programs like Medicare for All. In fact, Democrats have achieved their greatest political and policy successes when they have ignored the “centrists” and promoted bolder policies like the New Deal and Medicare.3

            Even worse than maintaining their middle-of-the-road positions, old guard Democrats are actively blocking the Party from moving to the left. At a recent Democratic National Committee meeting, Chairman Tom Perez, who became chair earlier this year only due to the strong backing of the Obama-Clinton wing of the Party, ousted from DNC leadership positions four long-serving officials who represented the so-called “Sanders wing” of the Democratic Party. These officials all had backed Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison over Perez for the chairmanship. Consequently, despite it’s call for unity, “the Democratic establishment is ruthlessly tightening its grip on the party.”4

         This does not bode well for the Democrats in the 2018 mid-term elections. A divided party is a weak party. Why would Sanders supporters turn out if all they will get in return is more of the same centrist policies that don’t come close to meeting their needs or desires? Is total control of the Party more important to establishment Democrats than winning elections, stopping the Trump/Bannon takeover of our country, and improving the lives of most Americans? The Democratic Party needs to do some serious soul-searching now, before it’s too late.

1 See https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/08/why-the-democrats-better-deal-is-political-suicide.

2 See https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/59e7dc46e4b0e60c4aa367cb.

3 See https://www.commondreams.org/views/2017/10/25/why-centrists-will-sink-democrats-if-they-havent-already.

4 See http://inthesetimes.com/article/20627/dnc-purge-ellison-perez-bernie-sanders-left-center/.

 

The Shameful Republican Congress

The political pressure cooker in Washington is nearing the boiling point. Republican Senator Bob Corker’s (R-TN) recent public proclamations that “the White House has become an adult day care center” and that President Trump was risking World War III are just the tip of the iceberg. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson thinks Trump is a f—king moron. And, Chief of Staff John Kelly is continually scrambling to manage Trump’s constant outbursts. Our nation is in deep trouble.

Meanwhile, a great number of Republicans in Congress agree with Corker’s assessment that Trump lacks the stability and competence to succeed as president. An October 12th L.A. Times editorial declared that it is “beyond question…that many Republicans in Congress and around the country and even in the president’s own Cabinet consider him a potential menace to the country: an under-qualified man of poor judgment, a bellicose hothead who returns small slights with disproportionate attacks. “1

Nevertheless, despite the mounting danger that Trump poses to the nation, Republicans are not calling for hearings to determine whether to impeach the president. It seems Republicans are more concerned with achieving tax cuts for their wealthy donors than they are with protecting the nation from an unstable, incompetent commander-in-chief. Republican sources reportedly have indicated that they want to enact tax reform before considering impeachment.2 Sadly, they are not ready to place the future of our country ahead of party politics.

Republicans are between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, they want to achieve at least some of their legislative agenda and they need Trump’s support to do that. On the other hand, the Republican Party brand is being seriously tarnished by Trump and establishment Republicans would like nothing better than to remove him from the White House.

Unable to repeal and replace Obamacare, congressional Republicans’ main objective now is a major overhaul of the tax code. If they turn on Trump, any chance of their accomplishing this goal would disappear and their re-election prospects would diminish as well. In fact, they are afraid of Trump’s base. Steve Bannon, Trump’s former alt-right advisor, is already preparing to primary practically every sitting Republican senator running for re-election next year.

At the same time, Trump has attacked many Congressional Republicans and blames them for failing to pass his legislative priorities, even though he, himself, has done little to help them achieve his agenda. While only 29% of Americans view the Republican Party favorably, 79% of Republican voters still support Trump.3 Consequently, with few exceptions like Sen. Corker, Republicans on the Hill are unwilling to publicly express their displeasure with the president despite the fact that a great many of them would like to see the Trump administration end.4

While Corker’s comments have shed some light on congressional Republicans’ true sentiments, what will it take for those same legislators to turn on Trump? On Monday, October 16th, the president falsely asserted that former president Barack Obama and other presidents did not contact the families of American troops killed in duty.5 He made that claim despite the fact that Trump, himself, had not called to console the families, nor had he spoken publicly about the four Green Berets killed in an ambush in Niger two weeks ago. Since then, Trump chose to spend a good deal of his time playing golf, picking a fight with the NFL players over their right to protest, and mocking Sen. Corker’s height, instead of paying his respects to these fallen warriors and their families.

Trump’s failure to pay tribute to the families of these soldiers brought this response from San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich:

“This man in the Oval Office is a soulless coward who thinks that he can only become large by belittling others. This has of course been a common practice of his, but to do it in this manner – and to lie about how previous presidents responded to the deaths of soldiers – is as low as it gets.  We have a pathological liar in the White House: unfit intellectually, emotionally, and psychologically to hold this office and the whole world knows it, especially those around him every day. The people who work with this President should be ashamed because they know it better than anyone just how unfit he is, and yet they choose to do nothing about it. This is their shame most of all.”6

That congressional Republicans continue to ignore Trump’s inexcusable behavior and utter unfitness for the presidency is the greatest shame of all, and the gravest danger to our country.

1 See http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-corker-trump-20171011-story.html.

2 See http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/donald-trump-impeachment-latest-robert-reich-former-republican-senator-unhinged-tax-bill-us-a7996341.html.

3 See http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/24/politics/cnn-poll-republican-party-approval/index.html.

4 See http://www.newsweek.com/trump-impeachment-articles-republican-impeach-685831.

5 See https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/16/us/politics/trump-obama-killed-soldiers.html.

6 See https://www.yahoo.com/sports/gregg-popovich-president-trump-soulless-coward-225829012.html.

Democracy Convention: A Call To Transform Our Political System

Four hundred political organizers and social change agents from around the country recently gathered for the third national Democracy Convention in Minneapolis from August 2 to 6. I came away from that experience energized and feeling that the progressive movement is alive and well in America.

While the conference had numerous themes, its overriding mission was: To bring people together to build a strong Democracy Movement for transforming of our political system into one that truly represents and serves the working people of our country.Sponsored by Liberty Tree Foundation for the Democratic Revolution, the convention clearly made major strides towards its goal.

The convention addressed the full gamut of people’s concerns, including racial justice and immigration, health and education, money in politics, environmental protection, peace and economic equity. One convention thread emphasized the need to strengthen the rights of people over corporations in the U.S. Constitution. Richard Monje, Vice President of Workers United/SEIU (Service Employees International Union), pointed out that the Constitution actually protects private property at the expense of We the people. He advocated for including workers’ and economic rights in the Constitution.

Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap, National Director of Move To Amend, one of the main convention sponsors, proclaimed that the moral argument for overturning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision is what will bring people together to demand a 28th Amendment. Move To Amend supports the We the People Amendment that states money is not speech and corporations are not people.

Congressman Mark Pocan (D-WI), the First Vice Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, kicked off the Saturday morning program. He declared that we need to “fix our democracy” by: (1) enacting a Constitutional Right to Vote Amendment and related laws to protect the integrity of our elections; and (2) eliminating Big Money from the election process. Rep. Pocan also called for a People’s Budget that would prioritize the needs of the American people and cut out corporate handouts and tax loopholes.

 

While I found that the Convention presented many stimulating solutions to the critical issues facing our nation, a central question still had to be addressed: how to move these ideas into actual policy? Nick Brana, former National Political Outreach Coordinator for the Sanders for President campaign, had one answer that attracted many convention attendees. A founding member of Our Revolution, Brana called for a new progressive party. He noted that Americans are disillusioned and deserting the two major parties. Brana asserted that almost half the country now identifies as Independents. He believes that a viable, progressive third party could be formed by bringing together half of the Independents, half of the Democrats, some Republicans and many Americans who previously have refused to participate in our elections.

Brana argued that progressives must institutionalize their message by forming a third party. He likened progressives’ involvement in the Democratic Party to an abusive relationship. The Party keeps promising to change, but it continually goes back to the same old abusive behavior of favoring Corporate America and Wall Street over the people. According to Brana, breaking this destructive pattern requires that progressives form their own party. Then the Democratic Party will be forced to change to avoid mass defections, or it will continue to shrink and finally collapse. If the Party does not return to its FDR roots, Brana argued, this new third party will become a major people’s party.

The premise of Brana’s thesis is that the Democratic Party has no incentive to change without the challenge of a third party. With the help of Harvard Professor Cornel West, he is putting his theory to the test. Together they are convening the People’s Convergence Conference (convergence2017.org) in Washington on September 8th to 10th. The conference will examine the way forward for the progressive movement. They have invited Sen. Sanders to attend a “Draft Bernie Town Hall” at the conference.

Whether Sanders will accept the invitation and agree to lead a new third party is doubtful. Nevertheless, we are living in very dangerous times. Our democracy is being threatened by authoritarian leaders both at home and abroad. The American people have lost faith in the ability of our Establishment institutions to work for them. The Democracy Convention provided hope that together we can transform our political system and save our democracy.

Can the Democrats Come Together in 2018?

            The Democrats came close in two special elections in Georgia and South Carolina this week. While they didn’t win either race, they did significantly narrow the gap between the parties in both contests. Given that both districts were Republican strongholds, the Democrats can look forward to the 2018 mid-term election with the knowledge that they are gaining ground. But what could turn these ‘almost victories’ into decisive wins next year?

            The winning formula, I believe, consists of three important factors. First, the Democratic Party has to unite. Second, it needs to embrace a strong, populist message. And, third, it must greatly enlarge the normal mid-term, voter turnout.

            The Clinton establishment wing and the Sanders progressive arm of the Democratic Party are still at odds. A great number of people on the left are fed up with corporate Democrats siding with Big Money interests over those of the middle class and the working poor. Since the 2016 election, more and more Americans are becoming actively involved in the progressive movement. Our Revolution, Indivisible, Democracy for America and Brand New Congress are just a few of the organizations leading the way. Earlier this month, four thousand activists from various groups attended the People’s Summit in Chicago. They created a bold progressive message that speaks to the real needs of average Americans. Their platform may well be the stimulus for bringing into the process a great number of people who have never before been politically active, which will, in turn, enlarge the Democratic electorate.

            If millions of new voters do engage in this progressive effort, the Democrats just might regain control of one or both houses of Congress in 2018. In addition, this expanding grassroots movement could force the Democratic Party to unite and accept their demands. Establishment Democrats need to understand that many on the left are ready to abandon the Party and form a third party, which would likely be disastrous for the Democrats’ election prospects. In fact, attendees at the People’s Summit were urging Sen. Bernie Sanders to join them in creating a new progressive party. The 2018 election may be the last chance for the Democrats to come together under a truly progressive banner.

            Other significant obstacles could derail the Democrats’ election hopes as well. A good many establishment Democrats will likely want to diminish any strong populist vision in order to appeal to Independents and moderate Republicans. Additionally, some people may feel so disillusioned by the current state of our nation’s politics that they are unable to generate either the desire or the energy to get on board. Again, it will take the enthusiastic power of a massive grassroots movement to overcome these impediments.

            While Trump’s misconduct and recent Congressional election defeats are difficult for many to swallow, Democrats cannot allow that to deter them from the critical work at hand. Moreover, they must not ignore the role that voter obstruction has played in our recent elections. In the Georgia special election, for example, the Republican candidate, Karen Handel, oversaw massive voter roll purges as Georgia’s Secretary of State. Such wrongdoing is extremely disheartening. Rather than being overtaken by despair, however, Democrats need to use Republican misdeeds as motivation to take action, and help restore our democracy.

            In truth, this is not really a partisan matter. It is about whether Big Money, both Democratic and Republican moneyed interests, the one percent, will control our nation. We are at a critical time in our history. Trump and his allies are threatening the very survival of our democratic way of life. If we, the people, do not stand up and resist them, we all may be complicit in the collapse of American democracy.

            We each must do some serious soul-searching. In many cases, we will have to stretch ourselves and go beyond our comfort zones to engage in this struggle, as well as reach out and inspire others to do the same. Do we really have any other choice? Our country is calling!

 

 

We Are the Ones We’ve Been Waiting For

It’s been way too long since I’ve written here. Now, however, I’m setting the intention to blog twice a week, if not more. So, here goes….

While the 2016 election cycle is about to end, our work as engaged citizens is just beginning. I believe this election, regardless of who wins, has finally awakened the American people to the fact that we are responsible for the state of our union.

Whether our government functions in the best interests of the people is up to us. Too often we have allowed the politicians and special interests to determine policy without regard for the public interest. For example, when President Bill Clinton negotiated NAFTA, the North American Trade Agreement, was he looking out for American workers or big business? And, whose concerns guided our government’s decision to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act that separated commercial banking from investment banks? Wall Street or Main Street?

In 2003 when the Bush Administration promoted and initiated a war against Iraq, was that in the best interests of the American people? With then Vice President Cheney leading the way, Halliburton, Cheney’s former company, and other Big Oil corporations sought to profit from the needless killing of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and the wasteful expenditure of trillions of U.S. taxpayers’ dollars.

More recently, when the 2008 Great Recession crippled the country, President Obama used our money to bail out Wall Street while doing little to help millions of his fellow citizens save their homes from foreclosure. In all these and other similar situations, the vast majority of Americans felt helpless, watched their government act against their best interests and did nothing.

But, the times they are a changing. A great number of Americans from all political persuasions are fed up with government as usual. They are giving notice that they will no longer stand by and allow Big Money and special interests to run the show. Whether they support Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton, voters are angry and ready to fight for what they believe in.

When President Obama was elected, people thought he would deliver the”change you can believe in” that he had promised. They did not hold his feet to the fire to assure he would make good on his promises. While one can argue that Obama faced much opposition which obstructed his performance, we, the people, were not organizing the mass movement that would have provided the necessary support and force to overcome some of the obstacles he faced.

This time is different. We are under no illusions that either Clinton or Trump will produce the change most Americans desire. This time we know that it is up to us to battle for the kind of country we want. We must make our voices heard and demand real change for the public good, not the special interests. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.