The Struggle for the Soul of America: Can We Come Together in a National Emergency?

Whether one is a Republican, Democrat or Independent; a progressive, liberal, moderate or conservative, we are all equally vulnerable to being infected with, and even dying from, the Coronavirus. COVID-19 is our common enemy. Nevertheless, instead of coming together to combat this very dangerous disease, Americans are as divided as ever. In this time of national crisis, why can’t we put our political differences aside and unite in our efforts to defeat the Coronavirus?

In the 1930s, our country faced a different, yet very threatening challenge, the Great Depression. Then Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt sought to calm the public suffering from the extreme anxieties of the Depression by proclaiming “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” During his presidency FDR delivered “fireside chats” in an attempt to reassure the entire country that he was working to lift all Americans out of their economic misery.

Years later our country suffered a terrorist attack on 9/11 2001. Then Republican President George W. Bush rallied the American people together to respond to this horrific assault. He called on all Americans to “unite in our resolve for justice and peace” and jointly “go forward to defend freedom and all that is good and just in our world.” (See https://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/gwbush911addresstothenation.htm.)

In times of national catastrophe, presidents of both parties have risen above partisanship and worked to unify our country. That is what real leadership demands. That is what American presidents are supposed to do. Unfortunately, President Trump doesn’t seem to know the meaning of true leadership. Instead, Trump has continued to ramp up the partisan divide.

Why does Trump belittle Democratic governors like Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee who are working hard to contain the virus, while he praises Republican governors like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis who allowed virus-spreading beaches to remain open? Even worse than his degrading remarks, Trump provides critical supplies to Florida while withholding them from Michigan, though he later relented and did send needed equipment to the state. (See https://www.yahoo.com/huffpost/trump-whitmer-michigan-desantis-florida-coronavirus-094500724.html.)

Does Trump really believe it’s right to punish millions of people of both parties in these states because he favors a Republican governor and dislikes a Democratic governor? Does he even think about the suffering of people in these states who are not getting enough essential medical supplies because of his bickering with their governors?

Fortunately, all Republicans are not playing partisan politics with the deadly Coronavirus. Michigan Rep. Paul Mitchell, a Republican, cares more about the people of his state than which party controls the statehouse. While commending Gov. Whitmer’s work to contain the virus, he raised concerns about Trump’s political attack on the governor with the administration directly. Mitchell correctly noted, “These are times when the American people look for leaders. Leaders don’t whine. Leaders don’t blame.” (See https://www.yahoo.com/news/trump-allies-warn-against-feud-040927785.html.)

Rather than partisan politics which weakens our ability to reduce the spread of COVID-19, what we urgently need now is unity. Many hard-hit, democratically controlled metropolitan areas are taking aggressive measures to limit economic and social activity while some red states and rural counties are resisting calls for more stringent action to curb the virus. Presidential leadership could eliminate this discord and create a national policy that unites the country against this common enemy. While some areas are more affected than others, the Coronavirus continues to grow, and every state and county will eventually be impacted by what others do or fail to do. (See https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/31/politics/red-states-blue-cities-coronavirus/index.html.)

So right now, we all need to put partisanship aside. Call your local, state and federal officials today and urge them to work together for the good of all Americans.

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: Once Again, It’s All About the Money

President Trump recently proclaimed that “We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself.” By which he means that the cure of a national stay-at-home order and shutting down the economy would be worse than the further spreading of the coronavirus.

Trump even implied that the deaths of thousands of Americans is not that big of a deal. Afterall, he noted that thousands of Americans die in car accidents every year, but we don’t “tell everybody no more driving of cars.” See https://news.yahoo.com/trump-downplays-coronavirus-threat-again-even-as-number-of-cases-in-us-surges-001339863.html.

For Trump, the bottom line is getting the economy going again as soon as possible, in order to avoid a recession, or possibly a depression, and bolster his re-election prospects. In Trump’s mind, that’s more important than the thousands, some suggest millions, of Americans who will die if the coronavirus is not contained before economic activity is re-ignited.

Of course, no one knows for sure how this will play out. Other countries’ experiences, however, are instructive. In China, where the pandemic originated, researchers have found that stay-at-home orders were a key to stemming the spread of the virus. Now, two months since the Chinese lockdown began, the number of new cases is very low, down from thousands per day at the peak. See https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00741-x; https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/19/asia/coronavirus-covid-19-update-china-intl-hnk/index.html.

Hong Kong’s situation is even more telling. Since the beginning of March when much of Hong Kong’s workforce stopped working from home and returned to their workplaces, the number of reported cases of coronavirus has nearly tripled. See https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/23/asia/hong-kong-coronavirus-quarantine-intl-hnk/index.html.

Meanwhile, Congress is rushing to pass a $2 trillion stimulus package to support laid off workers, collapsing small businesses and suffering corporations. Here, paradoxically, Trump may be correct. This supposed cure for America’s economic woes may be worse than the recession that is about to descend upon us. According to the Huffington Post, “The emergency… legislation that the Senate agreed to on Tuesday (is)…an outrage. It is not an economic rescue package, but a sentence of unprecedented economic inequality and corporate control over our politics…It represents a transfer of wealth and power to the super rich from the rest of us, with the support of both political parties…” See https://www.yahoo.com/huffpost/senate-democrats-donald-trump-coronavirus-bill-181622873.html.

The bill provides $367 billion in loans to help small businesses hit hard by the outbreak to keep making payroll, $100 billion for hospitals, and $150 billion for state and local governments. It also provides for Americans who make up to $75,000 to receive a one-time payment of $1,200. A $500 billion fund, which can be leveraged to 10 times that amount, earmarked for corporations that have been economically damaged by the pandemic, will be overseen by an inspector general and a congressional panel in accordance with Democrats’ demands.

However, according to HuffPost, “the oversight terms that Democrats secured are purely cosmetic, replicating the toothless provisions of the 2008 bank bailout that enabled watchdogs to report abuse but not actually prevent or rectify it….Democrats and Republicans have essentially decided to hold a pittance of relief for the people hit hardest hostage to the most reckless and… unnecessary corporate welfare program ever conceived.” .” See https://www.yahoo.com/huffpost/senate-democrats-donald-trump-coronavirus-bill-181622873.html.

Former Republican, Rep. Justin Amash called the plan “a raw deal for the people.” He explained that “It does far too little for those who need the most help, while providing hundreds of billions in corporate welfare, massively growing government, inhibiting economic adaptation, and widening the gap between the rich and the poor.” See https://www.yahoo.com/news/rep-amash-signals-may-single-134541682.html.

Finally, HuffPost analysts believe that “the legislation provides nothing of substance to address the coronavirus pandemic itself…It mobilizes no new resources, organizes no production, improves no medical supply delivery and trains no new nurses. Instead, it moves an enormous amount of money around and puts the Trump administration in charge of its movement.” See https://www.yahoo.com/huffpost/senate-democrats-donald-trump-coronavirus-bill-181622873.html.

As of this writing, Speaker Pelosi and the House Democrats have not yet signed off on this shameful deal crafted by the devious Sen, Mitch McConnell. Call Pelosi ((202) 225-4965), Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), other House Democrats ((202) 224-3121) and your U.S. Senators ((202) 224-3121) now and voice your strong opposition to another cowardly cave-in to Big Money.

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: Welcome to the Apocalypse

I phoned my daughter, Gioia, in Berkeley the other day. She answered my call, “Welcome to the Apocalypse, dad.” While I hadn’t looked at the global situation quite like that before, I had to agree with her. The world as we know it is disintegrating before our very eyes.

This time feels kind of like a calamity of biblical proportions. Something comparable to the Great Flood, except, unlike Noah, we failed to build an ark on which to ride out the storm. Or, maybe what we are experiencing is more akin to the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah, two ancient cities destroyed by divine retribution for their shameless sins and excessive indulgences. Of course, now like then, many, many innocent people are suffering and dying in the wake of the immoral, depraved behavior of others, from corporate avarice to the extreme political power of the very wealthy to presidential self-dealing.

At the same time, some light is beginning to shine through the darkness. China recently closed all 14 temporary hospitals that opened in Wuhan to treat COVID-19 patients during the worst of the outbreak. Moreover, the U.S.  has begun voluntary testing of a vaccine which protects against the coronavirus. (See https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/10-positive-updates-on-the-covid-19-outbreaks-from-around-the-world/?fbclid=IwAR22A_83gkAB8eLWPy9W3t8Vurj-tbHFUELNzWFH_YzYD-ptcqoNj-7XPzM.)

While this human, economic and political firestorm has been in the making for decades, it certainly has become full blown under the “extremely stable genius” of President Donald Trump. Afterall, he falsely bragged that he saw the pandemic coming “long before it was called a pandemic.” (See https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/05/president-trump-im-an-extremely-stable-genius.html; https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/17/us/politics/trump-coronavirus.html)

Trump is our modern-day Nero, who played the fiddle while Rome burned. Only Trump played golf while our country and the entire world was in free fall.

We should ask Mr. Trump:

  1. If you actually did see the coronavirus pandemic coming, why did you eliminate the National Security Council’s pandemic response team that could have mitigated the suffering of thousands, possibly millions, of Americans?
  2. Why did you call the media and Democratic sense of urgency, if not the coronavirus itself, a “hoax”? and,
  3. Why did you claim the coronavirus would be gone by April?

These are just a few of Trump’s many blunders and lies that have made this crisis worse and our country’s response hugely inadequate up to this point. Over 10,000 Americans now have the virus and close to 200 have already died.

Of course, the honest answers to these and similar questions all have to do with Trump’s central concern, his political future, rather than the wellbeing of the American people. Maybe, just maybe, this catastrophe will wake up enough of our fellow Americans to how incompetent and unfit Trump is to be president that they will overwhelmingly reject his re-election bid next November. But enough about our Pinocchio, con-man-in-chief president. What can we do individually to mitigate this colossal crisis? Here are just a few suggestions:

First, we need to help curtail the spread of the coronavirus. My partner and I have self-quarantined. We all need to stay home.

Second, washing our hands with soap and water is still the best way to prevent transmission of the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Third, use disinfectants to keep your hands and surfaces free of the coronavirus. (See https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/05/health/epa-disinfectants-coronavirus-trnd/?hpt=ob_blogfooterold)

And, finally, don’t panic. Yes, these are extremely hard times. We are under great pressure and it’s going to get worse before it gets better. However, in order to be most helpful to ourselves and others, we must keep our wits about us. Remember, it’s darkest just before the dawn. A new day will come. We must continue to work together to ensure that that day will bring a more equitable, democratic society with affordable healthcare for all, a mandatory living wage, and a sustainable environment based on renewable energy. Let us look at this terrible episode in our history as a period of deep cleansing required to usher in a new era of fairness, community, respect for our planet and love for all beings.

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: 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: 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: The Squeeze Is On

With the latest revelation from John Bolton’s upcoming book, the squeeze is on Senate Republicans. According to the New York Times, the book, The Room Where It Happened, describes how last August President Trump told Bolton, his national security adviser, that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens.

Later this week the Senate will vote on whether to allow new evidence, witnesses and documents, to be included in Trump’s impeachment trial. At least four Republicans must vote with the 45 Democrats and two Independents for the Senate to permit the admission of new evidence. If Senate Republicans stick together and refuse to hear Bolton’s testimony as well as other new evidence, the outcry that Republican senators are complicit in a grand coverup will be deafening. And, the resulting partisan acquittal of the president will carry little, if any, weight.

Key Republicans, including Susan Collins, Mitt Romney, Lamar Alexander, and Lisa Murkowski, are feeling major pressure. How can any Republican senator go back home to his or her constituents and claim the trial was fair and the verdict was proper if no witnesses testify and no documents are placed in evidence?

Over 70% of Americans want a fair trial with witnesses and documents to expose the truth regarding Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. Senators know that they are on trial as well. A third of the Senate, including 23 Republicans, will face the voters in November. Their re-election may very well hinge on how they vote in the impeachment trial, both regarding witnesses and the ultimate verdict. The squeeze is on Senate Republicans.

At the same time, no senator really wants to be labeled as the deciding vote, either to allow or block new evidence. Consequently, it appears there is a movement afoot to enlist a block of Republican senators, perhaps as many as ten, to support admitting new evidence. Sens. Collins and Romney have been most outspoken about the need for more evidence. But now, even Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally, has acknowledged that Bolton may be “a relevant witness” and said he’d consider subpoenaing a manuscript of his book.

The vote on whether to inject new witnesses and documents into the impeachment trial is likely to occur this Thursday or Friday. According to interviews with a number of senators, they pay attention to their constituents’ phone calls to their offices. So, it’s time to pick up your phone and call your senators, even if they are Democrats who will be voting in favor of new evidence. The more they hear from their constituents, the more likely they are to increase the pressure on their Republican colleagues.

Of course, if one or both of your senators is a Republican, you can truly have an impact on their thinking on this issue. Encourage your friends and family to call as well.

Perhaps most importantly, if you have friends or family represented by Republican senators, particularly those senators up for re-election and/or in swing states, call or email them and encourage them to call their senators and lobby those senators to support the call for new evidence. Americans deserve the truth.

The U.S. Capitol switchboard number is (202) 224-3121. A switchboard operator will connect you directly with the Senate office you request.

The future of our country is on the line. The soul of America is calling out for each of us to do our part. Don’t ever doubt that You Can Make a Difference. 

And read: https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/01/27/blow-phones-demands-boltonmusttestify-surge-after-new-revelations-about-ukrainian?cd-origin=rss&utm_term=AO&utm_campaign=Daily%20Newsletter&utm_content=email&utm_source=Daily%20Newsletter&utm_medium=Email

Bruce Berlin

This blog is an extension of my book, Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America. Please share my blog on Facebook, on other social media and with your email lists. Feel free to make comments or ask me questions. Subscribe to the blog at the top, left hand side of the blog page on my website, https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/how-to-unite-the-democratic-party/blog/, and keep sharing it with everyone. Let’s connect and build an unstoppable movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.

Bruce Berlin is a retired, public sector ethics attorney. He 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, the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution, and a practitioner of Buddhist meditation. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

 

 

 

America’s Dying Democracy: Can We Revive It?

The Twenty-first Century has not been good to America’s democracy. However, the recent upset victory by Doug Jones in Alabama and the results of Virginia’s election last month indicate that a democratic resurgence may be brewing. Still, American democracy is now on life support. How did this happen?

            The 2000 Election: It all started when the U.S. Supreme Court halted the full recount of the people’s ballots in Florida and declared George W. Bush president in December 2000.1 With a five-to-four decision, you could effectively argue that one Supreme Court justice’s vote has determined the course of American history ever since. Despite Al Gore’s winning the national popular vote by more than a half million,2 the Electoral College with the Court’s help put Bush in the White House: Hardly a democratic outcome.

            The Iraq War: Then, in March 2003, President Bush took the country to war against Iraq. Even though our Constitution gives Congress the sole power to declare war, the President usurped its authority in a futile attempt by the administration to gain control over Iraq’s vast oil reserves.3 This autocratic decision to invade Iraq enhanced the power of the presidency and diminished the authority of Congress: another blow to our democracy.

            The 2004 Election: Next came Bush’s re-election in 2004. Again, there were serious questions about the electoral process, especially in Ohio. The National Election Data Archive (NEDA) conducted an analysis of the 2004 Ohio presidential election, which provided convincing evidence of an outcome-altering vote miscount4 that handed Bush his margin of victory. America’s democracy was being shredded without any real resistance from the people.

            The Wall Street Bailout: While the election of Barack Obama in 2008 appeared to provide renewed hope for democracy, the Democrats and the new president soon demonstrated their own disregard for the needs and desires of the people. The bailout of the big Wall Street banks, which did practically nothing for the multitude of average Americans who had lost their homes and/or jobs during the Great Recession, as well as the Obama administration’s refusal to prosecute those responsible for the country’s financial collapse, indicated Obama’s willingness to please his Big Money donors at the expense of many of the people who voted him into office. Despite controlling both houses of Congress, Obama and the Democrats failed to seize the opportunity to halt the country’s march to plutocracy. Putting the bankers who had committed massive fraud in jail may well have curbed Big Money’s appetite for corrupting influence and overreach. Moreover, it would have given Americans more faith in our government and less reason to turn to a faux populist like Donald Trump. Once again, the democratic process had failed the American people.

            The 2016 Election and the Trump Presidency: In 2016 Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump in the presidential election by almost 2.9 million votes.5 Nevertheless, Trump became president by winning the Electoral College vote. Since then, we have learned that Russia interfered in the election, and that the Trump campaign may have colluded with the Russians in order to win the election.6 In the eleven months of Trump’s presidency, he has attacked the press, the judiciary, religious groups, minorities, women and, most recently, the FBI. Anyone not actively supporting Trump automatically becomes an enemy of his government. This is what authoritarian leaders do to crush democratic values and gain more and more control.

            The Current Republican Tax Bill: This bill, which is about to become law, is the product of America’s advance toward autocratic rule. How else can you explain the fact that only 32 percent of Americans support the legislation; Trump’s favorable rating is only 34 percent; and the Republican Party’s favorable rating is just 24 percent?8 Congressional Republicans have pushed through this highly unpopular bill without any public participation, not a single hearing, nor any Democratic input. In fact, they are the minority party, having won their Congressional majority through their gerrymandering of districts to win seats they would not have otherwise been able to capture. As we have noted, Trump is also a minority president, having lost the popular vote by close to 3 million. Yet, he and his Republican allies are ruling with an iron fist. American fascism is on the rise.

            Saving Our Democracy: Unfortunately, the Democratic Party, with only a 36 percent favorability rating and its own leanings toward plutocracy, has been unable to restrain the Republicans’ thirst for autocracy. The only force capable of reversing this authoritarian wave is the American people. The #Me Too movement, along with the recent Alabama and Virginia elections, provide some glimmer of hope. The question is will the American people come together and create the massive, grassroots movement required to break this autocratic thrust and revive our democracy.

            Numerous organizations are working to rebuild our democracy. Common Cause, Move To Amend, American Promise, Take Back Our Republic and Represent.us are just a few of the national groups leading the way. Here in New Mexico, Indivisible, New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics and Retake Our Democracy, among others, are engaged in this critical work. The more we are all actively participating in this effort, the greater the chances of its success. Watching and worrying as our democracy disintegrates won’t help. You can do something. Get involved before it’s too late.

 

1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bush_v._Gore.

2 http://www.leinsdorf.com/Gore%20Wins%20the%20Election%20by%20538.htm

3 http://www.cnn.com/2013/03/19/opinion/iraq-war-oil-juhasz/index.html.

4 http://www.electionmathematics.org/em-exitpolls/OH/2004Election/Ohio-Exit-Polls-2004.pdf.

5 http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/21/politics/donald-trump-hillary-clinton-popular-vote-final-count/index.html.

6 https://globalsecurityreview.com/russia-trump-2016-u-s-election/.

7 https://www.salon.com/2017/12/11/the-republican-tax-plan-is-the-most-unpopular-bill-in-30-years/.

8 https://www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/blogs/right-turn/wp/2017/12/11/even-without-roy-moore-the-gop-is-in-a-downward-spiral/

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.

The Republican Party: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

 

          The latest polls have President Trump’s approval rating at a dismal 36%. That is the lowest rating any president has had six months into his presidency in at least 70 years. Given the current state of affairs, there’s a good chance it will sink even lower before it gets better, if it ever does. Yet, among Republicans, 88 percent still “approve” or “somewhat approve” of Trump’s performance. Nevertheless, few Republican officials are jumping to support him.

            Every week, if not every day, more information is revealed about Trump and his closest associates’ possible collusion with the Russians to help him get elected. While Trump and his die-hard supporters call it “fake news,” Republicans in Congress are getting more worried with each day’s revelations. Like many Americans, they wonder why the Trump team’s narrative is constantly changing if the administration, in fact, has nothing to hide. With how many officials and on how many occasions did Trump and/or his close associates meet with the Russians? And, for what purpose? Will we ever know the whole truth?

            Congressional Republicans are in a race against time. They desperately want to pass as much of their legislative agenda as possible, e.g. repeal and replace ObamaCare and provide tax cuts for their wealthy donors, before the Trump administration completely implodes. Of course, Trump could still pull out of this mess (though the odds don’t seem to be in his favor at the moment) and help his party succeed.

            But the main reason Congressional Republicans are sticking with Trump is not their attachment to an agenda that a great majority of Americans oppose. Rather, it’s their fear of his base. With the 2018 election less than 16 months away, they do not want to rock the boat. Trump’s strong supporters, that 36% of the American electorate, could ruin the chances of re-election for any Congressional Republican who turned against him. As a result, they are holding their tongues and their noses, for the time being.

            Still, this could be a losing strategy for the Republicans. If the Trump administration does crash and burn, many will blame their party for not impeaching him or forcing him to resign, much like Republican pressure forced Nixon to do over 40 years ago. People will shame the Republicans for not putting country before party, as some observers are already doing, and allowing Trump’s corrupt administration to go on for so long at the expense of the welfare of the American people.

            You might conclude that the Republican Party is damned if they do and damned if they don’t. They are betting against the odds and hoping Trump can turn his fortunes around. Meanwhile, the American people are left high and dry. The fact that nothing is getting done to help the people doesn’t seem to be their concern, though we may very well be better off if the Republicans continue to have their hands tied by the investigations of Trump and their own internal divisions.

            With all the problems in the Republican Party, where are the Democrats? Their party is also divided and unable to provide any uplifting, positive vision for our country. Bernie Sanders seems to be the only politician willing to speak out about how to move America forward. While he has a strong following, the Democratic Party can’t, or is unwilling to, listen to him.

            It’s hard to imagine that our country has come to this. We have a president who lies regularly and only cares about himself and his wealthy friends. Our two major parties are practically void of leadership. And, most of the rest of the world is dumbfounded by the state of our nation. One overriding question remains: Given all that, who will stand up for the American people and fight to restore our democracy? It looks like it just may be up to you and me.

 

America on Trial

We, the people, are being severely tested. While former FBI Director James Comey testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee about President Trump’s alleged obstruction of justice, and Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller investigates whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to affect the outcome of our 2016 elections, it is the American political system which is actually on trial. In these most difficult times, will we, the people, stand together, demand the complete truth and see that our Constitutional principles are upheld?

            Though a significant element on the left is up in arms, a great many Americans seem willing to let the government’s lengthy, investigative process take its course. At the same time, a sizable segment of the population is lost in despair or has given up on our broken political system altogether. Meanwhile, Trump and his plutocratic gang continue to plunder our national treasury, destroy our environmental protections and damage our international relations.

            So much is at stake now. If we care about our children’s future, our communities as well as the environment, then we must do whatever is in our power to overcome this tyranny of greed and self-interest, which Trump represents. While the United States has a mixed record, at best, in this regard, we cannot lose sight of all that is good in our nation, most importantly, the great many hard-working, generous and compassionate people who constitute the heart and soul of this country.

            Unfortunately, both the Democratic and Republican parties have proven unable or unwilling to meet this challenge. Our political leaders are too beholden to special interests and their corporate sponsors to overcome these dark forces and truly serve the best interests of our nation. Additionally, most Congressional Democrats fall into the camp of supporting the drawn-out investigative process. As usual, they prefer taking what they consider “the safe path.” In any event, as the minority party, the Democrats do not have the Congressional power to initiate impeachment proceedings against our corrupt President.

            The Republicans, on the other hand, are too fearful of Trump’s loyal base to put our country before their party. They would rather curry favor with their wealthy donors by giving them more tax relief, while standing by and watching as Trump destroys America’s reputation in the world and our relations with our allies. It seems Republicans have no shame as they continually acquiesce to Trump’s self-serving, corrupt dealings with Russian oligarchs and his demeaning of anyone or any institution that fails to go along with his unethical and arrogant behavior. The Republican Party has sold its soul to the devil of expedient power.

            So, what are we, the American people, to do? We can sit back, glued to our televisions, watch this political drama unfold, and hope for the best. Or, we can take matters into our own hands. To do that, however, we must build a diverse, nonpartisan, grassroots democracy movement capable of successfully challenging Trump and his corrupt practices. This movement would speak to the real needs of the people and provide inclusive, democratic alternatives to Trump’s authoritarian policies. Additionally, it would reach out to the millions of disaffected Americans who feel left behind by both parties.

            Fortunately, such a movement is beginning to emerge following the disenchantment of the 2016 election. Last weekend in Chicago, four thousand activists attended the People’s Summit. They focused on “seizing power into their own hands through a new wave of progressive candidates, as well as continuing to keep their people’s revolution alive through demonstrations and disruption on the streets.” (See https://www.commondreams.org/views/2017/06/12/peoples-summit-vows-transform-resistance-power.) As keynote speaker Senator Bernie Sanders exclaimed to the roaring crowd, “…when we stand together, there is nothing that can stop us.”

            Are you ready and willing to unite and meet the awesome challenge to restore our democracy?